[KS] Re: [Fwd: romanization '99]

Robert J. Fouser rjfouser at kumagaku.ac.jp
Wed Jun 9 03:48:24 EDT 1999

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to see an emerging consensus on the need for two systems of

Regarding MR, the romanization workshop that I (and most recently Professor
Ramsey) referred to had the following members: Robert Austerlitz, Chin-Wu
Kim, Samuel Martin, Robert Ramsey, Ho-min Sohn, Seok Choong Song, and Edward
Wagner.  None of these distinguished scholars were attempting to uproot the
MR system.  Instead, their suggestions were aimed at bringing the system up
to date.  They came up with a long list of recommendations, but the
following relate to our discussion thus far:

1. "For typographical convenience we suggest that the diacritic (breve) be
replaced by a dot over a given vowel; in typing, a single tick may be
preferable.  Moreover, we would like to point out that omitting the
diacritic altogether will cause virtually no confusion of major geographical
names, names of institutions, or street names."

2. "We feel it is unnecessary to mark those cases in which the spellings,
ae, oe, and ng represent different sounds, since here are virtually no cases
of serious homophone clashes in common words."

3. "Although we regret the unfortunate choice of the apostrophe to mark the
aspirate consonants, in the light of established usage, we see little
likelihood of changing it.  Nevertheless, we invite consideration of
substituting the letter h for the apostrophe: ph, th, kh, chh.  We recognize
that the letter string chh is visually disconcerting, but this is a minor
discomfort that can be tolerated."

These are excellent suggestions that, had they been adopted earlier, would
have saved printers and computer users much grief over the years.  It is
interesting that #1 (the non-diacritic option) and #3 are similar to the
current North Korean system mention in Professor Armstrong's post (I too
would like information on this because I was not aware of these recent
changes).  The "chh" in #3 is awkward, so perhaps consideration could be
given to just using "ch."  With the non-diacritic option, this would be no
more inconsistent than using "o" and "u" each for two different Korean
vowels.  By "single tick" in #1, the authors were referring to an acute
accent, which is the alternative that Professor Lee thought would be better
than the circumflex.  Using the acute is fine with me.  We need to consider
the issue of using no diacritic at more seriously because it would make the
system easier and help lead in the direction of a single system for both

Though I strongly support two systems, I have not given the second
one-to-one system much thought.  The Yale system is, as Professor Ramsey
mentioned, in wide use in linguistics, so it should be given serious
consideration.  This may be difficult politically, so perhaps Professor Lee
could comment on this what sort of one-to-one system is being discussed.

With best wishes,

Robert Fouser


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