[KS] Romanization systems

Stefan Ewing sa_ewing at hotmail.com
Sat May 28 11:35:08 EDT 2005

Hi, everyone:

In the absence of responses, I'll ask some specific questions that are still 
up in the air.  I would appreciate any and all replies that this esteemed 
crowd can provide.

1.  As I recall reading in McCune and Reischauer's 1939 RASKB paper, "s" is 
only to be written as "sh" before "wi."  Thus, "si," for example, should 
*not* be written as "shi."  The 1984 South Korean romanization--which is 
based on McCune-Reischauer--does however advise that not only "s" but also 
"ks," "ls," "ps," and "ss" should take an "h" before *both* "wi" *and* "i."  
(This rule apparently does not extend to "ya," "yae," "yo-breve," "ye," 
"yo," or "yu"; thus, "syop'ing" (shopping) should evidently be written as 
such and not as "shop'ing.")

As a result of the 1984 system's influence, it appears that some believe M-R 
also advises writing "si" as "shi."  Is it possible that the system has 
"officially" changed since 1939, or is this practice due to a misconception?

2.  Samuel E. Martin's _Reference Grammar of Korean_ states that "wu" should 
be written as "u" after "m," "p," "pp," or "ph."  I can see the rule in 
front of me in the book with my own eyes, but can anyone confirm that this 
practice is adhered to?  (I suspect--without anything to back me up--that 
this practice is somehow related to something M & R wrote in their 1939 
paper, which mentions that around the time of the formation of the _Hangul 
Match'umbop_, there was a shift in Hangul orthography from, for example "p 
u-breve" to "p u.")

Also, the same book states quite clearly what "wi" and "yu" should be 
written as such.  In a recent paper by the UNGEGN Working Group on 
Romanization Systems (a UN committee), however, these are written as "wuy" 
and "ywu" respectively.  Has the Yale system in fact changed, or would this 
have been a case of someone's not reading the rules very carefully, and 
assuming that these two vowels or vowel combinations should follow the same 
pattern as analogous vowels or vowel combinations (e.g., "ay," "ya")?

3.  Improbably, the 2000 Revised Romanization of Korean makes absolutely no 
provision for the treatment of kyoppatch'im: the non-twinned double 
consonants ("ks," "nj," "nh," "lg," ..., "lh," "ps") that appear at the ends 
of some syllables.  Thus, I have only been able to make educated guesses on 
what the spelling of these should be in the medial and final positions in 
Revised Romanization, using the Revised Romanization transcription rules for 
other letters and McCune-Reischauer's rules for kyoppatch'im (and also 
following the Korean "final consonant rule" (patch'im kyuch'ik)).  I have 
put in a question to the National Academy of the Korean Language (they 
usually reply within a couple of days).  In the meantime, can anyone provide 
any insight on this matter?  (I have downloaded a program I found for 
converting Hangul to Revised Romanization, so I'll see if that answers my 

Eagerly awaiting your replies,
Stefan Ewing

>From: "Stefan Ewing" <sa_ewing at hotmail.com>
>Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>To: Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
>Subject: [KS] Romanization systems
>Date: Fri, 27 May 2005 14:49:56 -0700
>*** To the moderator: Sorry, I forgot to include a URL for the article! ***
>Hi, everyone:
>First of all, to set everyone at ease, this is *not* a request to discuss 
>the comparative advantages or disadvantages of various romanization 
>I have spent many years working with two of the most widely used Korean 
>romanization systems (McCune-Reischauer and the 2000 Revised Romanization 
>of Korean) and have a love-hate relationship with a third system (Yale 
>Romanization).  I have read a fair amount of original source material on 
>these and other systems (M's & R's 1939 RASKB paper; the South Korean 1984 
>and 2000 Romanization of Korean documents; and Samuel E. Martin's 
>discussion of the Yale system in his _Reference Grammar of Korean_), and 
>have also pored over the summer 1997 issue of Sae Kugo Saenghwal (the 
>National Academy of the Korean Language's quarterly journal), which deals 
>extensively with these matters.
>After working with and digesting material on all three systems for quite a 
>while, I decided to write up what I had learned--in such a manner that it 
>is accessible to both lay and (hopefully) academic readers--and publish it 
>online.  The result is an article that briefly summarizes the key 
>characteristics and differences of the the three abovementioned 
>romanization systems, touches on how they handle quirks of Korean 
>orthography and pronunciation (though the latter not in the Yale system, of 
>course, except for the saissori "q"), and includes a table showing all 
>Hangul consonants, vowels, digraphs, and trigraphs rendered in the three 
>systems, broken down into initial, medial, and final positions where 
>I humbly request your comments and constructive criticism on the article.  
>I have the wildly unrealistic hope that this article may be used in the 
>future as a reliable, quick, online reference to three of the most widely 
>used Korean romanization systems.  I'm sure errors or omissions have crept 
>in--and I haven't even begun to tackle the way in which McCune-Reischauer 
>and the Revised system handle consonantal sound changes--but I would be 
>glad to read anything that any of you can point out or suggest.  The 
>article is at 
>http://21cseonbi.blogspot.com/2005/05/comparing-romanizations.html (yes, 
>it's a weblog).
>Stefan Ewing

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