Talk:BGN/PCGN romanization of Russian

Latest comment: 10 years ago by Nkrita in topic Yë (yë) example: Йёнчёпинг
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Apostrophes vs. primesEdit

Unfortunately, I cannot confirm this. The BGN/PCGN publication is mum on that subject. Could be either. Most likely, they did not even bother about such a minor detail.—Ëzhiki (ërinacëus amurënsis) 23:18, 14 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You can't tell how they were printed if you look really closely? I based the change on Pederson's Russian.pdf, which seems to pay careful attention to such things. This is usually an esoteric detail, and the exact execution will depend on who is typing the transliteration or setting the type, but it does at least matter in the case of ISO 9, which specifies a prime ( ′ ) for ь and a typographic apostrophe ( ’ ) for the uk/be apostrof. Michael Z. 2006-02-15 00:17 Z
When compared against Russian.pdf, they indeed look like apostrophes. The symbols in the Russian romanization table also look exactly like apostrophes used elsewhere in the publication, so it's probably a safe bet to say that BGN/PCGN does not use primes. But I still can't say for sure if they are using double apostrophes or quotes (unlikely, but possible) for the hard sign. The publication does not seem to contain actual quote marks in the text descriptions, but I'll re-read it again to see if I missed anything.—Ëzhiki (ërinacëus amurënsis) 15:59, 15 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
OK, taking that back. In the section on Hebrew, they refer to "strong" and "weak" dagesh, and the quotation marks they use in the text look nothing like what the Russian romanization table contains, so hard sign is definitely represented by double apostrophes, not quotation marks. Of course, written proof of that would have been better, but for now this should suffice.—Ëzhiki (ërinacëus amurënsis) 16:06, 15 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's also possible that they use one font in the text and another in tables, or a different one with Cyrillic text.
In most fonts apostrophes are identical to closing quotation marks ( “ ” ‘ ’ ). The straight typewriter quotation marks and apostrophes are interchangeable too ( " ' ). Primes are usually straight slanted tick-marks ( ″ ′ ). There are also the modifier letter equivalents (mentioned here), which are technically better, but not well-enough supported in common fonts for us to use. Excuse me if I'm repeating something you already know. Cheers. Michael Z. 2006-02-15 18:59 Z
I am not a specialist on fonts, but those used in the main text and in the romanization tables look quite identical. The quotation marks used in the text are definitely straight, while the hard sign symbols in the romanization table are "curly". Single apostrophes are "curly" both in the text and in the romanization tables. None of the symbols look like primes at all. Logically, my conclusions above should be correct.
No problem with repeating things. Even though I knew most of them, it's still a good refresher. By the way, can you check if you have that book in your local library? Perhaps if you looked at it yourself, it would be more productive. I am also quite curious (and I don't know if you can help me) as to what convention Canadian government uses for romanization purposes. Would they adhere to PCGN conventions, or is there a separate Canadian body that regulates these issues?—Ëzhiki (ërinacëus amurënsis) 19:52, 15 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Good questions. One of the university libraries in town has the ALA-LC Romanization tables. I'll have another look specifically for BGN/PCGN, but I haven't found it when searching before.
The Geographical Names Board of Canada seems to concern itself mostly with Canadian place names, in French and English, but I found this: Guidelines for names outside Canada for official Canadian use—it essentially says to "use an appropriate Romanization system". Michael Z. 2006-02-15 22:18 Z

Simplified systemEdit

I found a reference for simplified BGN/PCGN. Source: Oxford Style Manual, s. 11.41.2 “Transliteration,” p. 350. Oxford University Press, 2003.

[under “British Standard”] If desired, -y may be used to express final -й, -ий, and -ый in proper nouns, for example Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Grozny.


Another commonly used British system agrees with the British Standard scheme with the following exceptions: е = ye initially and after ъ, ь, or a vowel; ё = yo (o after ж, ч, ш, or щ); й =y; final -ий, -ый = y in proper nouns or titles.

It should probably be made clear that this is not an official part of the standard, but the authority of the source and its consequent widespread use makes it legitimate. Michael Z. 2008-10-21 22:10 z

Great! Thank you, Michael; I've always known this should surface somewhere sooner or later.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); 23:34, 21 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Re: o after ж, ч, ш, or щ. I am glad someone agrees with my point of view. --Atitarev (talk) 01:56, 22 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I must admit that I probably would have disagreed before, but I don't really know Russian, and it seemed quite arbitrary. But following some established standard carries a lot of weight. Michael Z. 2008-10-22 02:20 z
Following some established standard that is actually in use out there carries even more weight. Using o after ж, ч, ш, or щ makes as little sense for us as wholesale switching to, say, scientific transliteration or ISO (which carry a lot of weight as well)—both conventions have their uses, but our job is to find one that's most widely understood, and neither scientific translit nor this weird, arbitrary, and hard-to-enforce clause are it. Using "(y)e" for "ё" (in all cases) at least makes sense; as for this exception, I can't fathom what reasoning the Oxford folks had when they came up with it. Also consider just how many words this exception would affect—apart from fairly common "чёрный" (black) and "жёлтый" (yellow), I am having hard time coming up with qualifying words which would be used in names (personal or geographic), and names are the primary target of our romanization guidelines. What's the point of making so minor an exception? To make life harder to our readers and editors by multiplying instruction creep?—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); 14:25, 22 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Does it actually make life much harder? It just gets added to the guideline, and someday someone may notice that the third -чё- word needs to be changed, and that's that.
But in the meantime we know that we are using an established standard instead of some stuff we made up for Wikipedia, that it's the same as in the thousands of OUP pubs, and that if it actually does matter to someone out there for some obscure reason then it will never become an issue.
Using a standard is what you do by default. It's ignoring standards which needs very firm justification. Michael Z. 2008-10-22 14:49 z
I should have made my point a bit clearer. It took us, what, three years to dig this particular standard up? Nevertheless, do you not find it amazing that we were able to bring WP:RUS to a state which is remarkably close to this standard? That feat was achieved simply by observing real life usage and tailoring the guidelines to fit it. Now that we have a citation for a standard, we can use it to further substantiate our empirical guidelines. If anything, I see the situation has improved considerably, not worsened. The only thorn is this strange "yo" clause, which we have not adopted because we had not seen it used in real life. Since guidelines are not articles, and since they are aimed first and foremost at providing a convenient environment to our readers, would you say that scraping one minor (and illogical) clause in favor of consistency (not to mention avoidance of time-consuming maintenance) is not a justification good enough? I am all for standards, mind you, but in my opinion this part is where an exception is (pardon the pun) exceptionally warranted. You've mentioned "thousands of OUP pubs"—I'll have to take your word on that because I have no means of verifying that. A simple google books/scholar search, however, comes up with (much) less than a hundred entries for either "чёрный" or "жёлтый" (that's discarding the last names, which in Wikipedia would mostly be covered by the conventionality clause anyway), regardless of which transliteration is being used. What's the point of implementing a rule when its impact is so negligible and when existing rules work out just fine (and are 99% compliant with established, and now sourced, practices)?—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); 15:25, 22 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well I suppose in practice, that is in publications and encyclopedia articles, the “modified system” would mostly be used for proper names used in English running text: people, places, organizations, publications. Perhaps a reference to some historical Ivan Chorny (not Chyorny) who is mentioned once or many times in a book or article. OUP would have an interest in these proper names reading naturally to anglophone eyes and ears, and that they are represented by typography that doesn't look odd or visually jarring on the page—plus, it may be their publications which establish a so-called conventional spelling.
In contrast, it may be desirable for technical references which might appear once in an article, or in tables, maps, glossaries, or especially bibliographies to use the precise and reversible BGN standard: e.g., “silk – Russian shëlk
But I guess this discussion really belongs at WP:RUS, and doesn't affect this article, right? Michael Z. 2008-10-22 16:30 z
Another way to think about it, although there are dozens of contexts in which romanization is used, most can be boiled down to two editorial situations. A precise transliteration is useful for conveying Russian spelling, while the “simplified” system determines how to spell Russian names in EnglishMichael Z. 2008-10-22 16:44 z
You are right that this discussion does not affect this article, although it may be useful to mention OSM here. As for the "simplified" system, it does not merely aim to determine how to spell Russian names in English; its main goal is to actually impose a standard, so we don't have a hodge-podge of different romanization/translation/transcription systems used for cases where no conventional name can be established. Ideally, such a standard would match an already existing system 1:1, but since we are trying to match real-life usage at the same time, we have to "simplify" a few things. Oxford Manual itself simplified BGN/PCGN for the very reason of it not being perfect for general usage; I don't see why we shouldn't go just a little bit further and perfect an already nearly-perfect system. It's definitely not the same as inventing a new system on our own, wouldn't you agree? Call it a gut feeling if you wish, but the whole WP:RUS was built on a gut feeling, and it turned out to be quite good in the end.
Speaking of historical usage, by the way, the words with the "чё" and "жё" combinations were normally spelled with an "о" before the Revolution (and, if my memory serves me, for quite a while after it). I doubt that's the reason behind the OSM rule, but it does mean that in your hypothetical example "Ivan Chorny" would be spelled just like that even under existing guidelines. With historical names being largely unaffected, I can only see this clause mangling modern names for no good reason. If one is to get rid of "yo", then better put "(y)e" instead of nonsensical "o".—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); 17:50, 22 October 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The very most important thing about a standard is that only it is the standard – everything else is, by definition, not. To improve a standard, even a teensy bit, is precisely to invent a new system. In my opinion, “going just a little bit further” immediately makes the result worse to begin with, because it no longer corresponds to the standard – so whatever benefits are gained had better be absolutely stupendous.
That aside, we can only improve and perfect something by clearly defining its disadvantages and the criteria by which to gauge any improvements.
Frustrating that the modified/simplified system doesn't have a name, and I resist calling it simplified because it simplifies the result by adding more rules. Perhaps the exception exists to keep the romanized text consistent, between pre and post-revolutionary originals, or perhaps the system itself even predates the revolution. (Or would our friend Chorny be renamed Chyorny in 1917?)
Sorry, but I cannot figure out what OSM stands for. Michael Z. 2008-10-22 19:18 z

Allworth is a bad exampleEdit

The system described under Edward Allworth, published by a US university, is just straight ALA-LC without the diacritics, isn't it? It isn't a good example of modified BGN/PCGN. Let's remove this.

I can find Oxford Style Manual's description of their modified system to replace it. Michael Z. 2008-12-15 18:03 z

Yë (yë) example: ЙёнчёпингEdit

I am confused by this example:

Russian letter: Ё (ё) – Romanization: Yë (yë) – Special provision: 3. after й

The example for this is: Йёнчёпинг = Y·ënchëping

Shouldn't it be Yyënchëping (Y for Й following the default, then for "ё after й")? Or am I missing something here? —Nkrita (talk) 17:57, 18 March 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You are absolutely right. BGN/PCGN's notes dealing with the interpunct do not contain a provision regarding the "йё" combination. I've made a correction.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); March 18, 2013; 18:01 (UTC)
Thanks! Very appropriate username, too. —Nkrita (talk) 18:12, 18 March 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No problem. Out of curiosity, do you have a specific example or situation in mind to which this rule applies? It's just that I don't believe there is currently any place in Russia whose name contains the "йё" combination, and while "Йёнчёпинг" is fine as an illustration for the rule, from the practical standpoint it's still a Swedish toponym transliterating which from Russian doesn't really make much sense.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); March 20, 2013; 12:59 (UTC)
I can't think of (or find) any example of this combination in Russian. After all, there is no need for й before the iotated ё, is there? —Nkrita (talk) 09:08, 23 March 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, not really. However, this combination may come up in Russian names of places whose names originated in some local languages (i.e., the same situation as with "Йёнчёпинг", but for places in Russia). There aren't any such places now, but there could have very well been some in the past, which is why I asked, in hopes that maybe you know one :) Cheers,—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); March 25, 2013; 12:00 (UTC)