[KS] Variable Romanization of 년(年) in McCune-Reischauer

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Sat Feb 22 17:07:50 EST 2014

Hi Dennis:

Good question. Never saw that before you mentioned it here ... but yes, 
the Library of Congress version of the McC-R rules does indeed list 
such examples as 
  1996 년  =  1996-yŏn
  62 年 事業  =  62-yŏn saŏp
on age 32, just as you say.

Am also a little confused here. Maybe some linguist can explain that?

I just wanted to say ne thing though: there are lots if rules in this 
very *detailed* ruleset by the Library of Congress. And it seems that 
for most there are too many rules, so many that non-bibliographers are 
unwilling to follow them, also because they make our life harder and 
not easier. FOR EXAMPLE (from my memory, without having reconfirmed 
with the guide), when you look up the book title "한글 타자" in the 
online Library of Congress catalog you will find this:
  Hanʼgŭl tʻaja
Not sure if your email program shows this correctly when my message 
arrives on your computer ... so here is an IMAGE of it:
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Do you see the variations there in the quotes -- between curved closing 
single quote and curved opening single quote? That is one of those LC 
rules that hardly anyone follows, one thought to be a stop to separate 
syllables, so Hanʼgŭl is not misread as Hangʼŭl, in the other case just 
representing the tiut (ㅌ). That's very Prussian, I'd say, except that 
it comes from Washington. Not even first rate university presses follow 
such rules.

The same page of the LG guide you referred to also has this example:
  천구백구십육년  =  Ch’ŏn-kubaek-kusip-yungnyŏn 
Apart from that "-yŏn" which same as you I do not understand (yet), it 
does make sense to transcribe a year in e.g. a book title *if* it is 
given there in hanʼgŭl (not numerals), just as in the example above. It 
also makes sense to leave it in numerals *if* it is given in numerals 
in the original (e.g. 1962 년). But I see that a number of writers then 
also transcribe it into full words if the original is in numerals. The 
only reason this happens is because there are just too many rules in 
the ALA-LC guidelines for researchers to follow. You just can't have a 
life in the real world and parallel to that follow ALA-LC rules. Enough 
is enough.


On Sun, 23 Feb 2014 04:56:16 +0900, Dennis Lee wrote:
> Dear List Members:
> I apologize in advance if this has already been answered on the list. 
> However, my search came up nothing about this. 
> This is something about the McR romanization for 년(年) that has 
> bothered me for years, but I haven't yet found a satisfactory answer.
> On page 32 of the ALA-LC guidelines, it gives several examples of 
> romanizing 년, but in some cases it will romanize it nyŏn while in 
> others it will be yŏn. Logically, I think it should be nyŏn all the 
> time.  At first, I thought the use of yŏn was some arbitrary rule for 
> years written in Indo-Arabic numerals, but I have seen it used both 
> ways in various publications. 
> Does anybody know what the exact rule is for choosing yŏn over nyŏn, 
> and more importantly, why? Also, does this apply to the Revised 
> Romanization system as well?
> Here are the examples given:
> 천구백구십육년  Ch'ŏn-kubaek-kusip-yungnyŏn
> 1996년 1996-yŏn
> 六十二年 事業 計劃 Yuksip-inyŏn saŏp kyehoek
> 62 年 事業 計劃 62-yŏn saŏp kyehoek
> Thank you,
> Dennis Lee

Frank Hoffmann

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