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agency bullet Romanization Systems and Policies

INTRODUCTION

This publication contains all of the romanization systems and Roman-script spelling conventions that are currently approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) and its British counterpart, the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use (PCGN).  It therefore supersedes the Transliteration Guide of 1961, the Romanization Guide of 1964, 1967, 1972, and the publication Romanization Systems and Roman Script Spelling Conventions of 1994.  Each romanization system and spelling convention presented is identified as being a BGN/PCGN system or a BGN/PCGN agreement, with the date of its joint adoption by the BGN and PCGN indicated in most cases. (See Table).

Within the U.S. Government, BGN/PCGN romanization systems and agreements are used primarily for the purpose of establishing standardized Roman-script spellings of those foreign geographical names that are written in non-Roman scripts or in Roman alphabets that contain special letters.  Geographic names that have been romanized and names originally written in Roman script are made available for general use on the Geonet Names Server, an on-line service of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (http://geonames.nga.mil/namesgaz).  This database, which covers virtually every foreign country in the world, provides information as to the name, type, and location of every geographic feature listed, as well as variant spellings of names for finding purposes.

In most cases, familiarity with the writing system of a given language is all that is needed in order to apply the appropriate BGN/PCGN romanization system or agreement correctly.  In some cases, however, a thorough knowledge of both the language and its writing system are an absolute requirement.  The latter category includes the systems for Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Pashto, i.e. systems for languages in which vowels are not ordinarily represented in the script.  The BGN/PCGN romanization systems for those languages and for the languages represented in this publication generally contain elements of transliteration – the process of recording the graphic symbols of one writing system in terms of the corresponding graphic symbols of a second writing system – and of transcription – the process of recording the phonological and/or morphological elements of a language in terms of a specific writing system.*

Some BGN/PCGN romanization systems, e.g. those for Bulgarian and Georgian, exhibit a high degree of reversibility; i.e., the Roman letters that serve as the equivalents of the non-Roman characters of the source script may be converted to the original characters almost unambiguously.  Other BGN/PCGN systems and agreements, e.g., those for Amharic and Korean, are not easily reversible.  The BGN/PCGN romanization system for Thai provides an extreme example of a non-reversible system; in that system, the Roman letter t is used to represent a total of nineteen different Thai characters in syllable-final position.  The Thai romanization system, therefore, can be said to be undifferentiated, since it contains several instances of a single Roman letter or letter combination serving as the equivalent of more than one Thai character.


The Roman letters and letter combinations that are shown as equivalents of the non-Roman characters in the BGN/PCGN romanization systems generally reflect the letters and letter combinations that are used in English orthography.  In many cases, however, the number of Roman-letter equivalents needed for a particular system exceeds the number of appropriate letters and letter combinations available in English orthography.  As a result, several Roman letters may be shown with diacritical marks in order to provide the necessary differentiation of graphic symbols and insure proper reversibility.  In the Persian alphabet, for example, there are four different characters that are pronounced like the letter z in English.  In order to differentiate the romanizations of those four characters, the BGN/PCGN system for Persian utilizes the ordinary letter z and three z’s with diacritical marks, i.e., z̄, and z̧.  In addition to their use in Roman-letter equivalents in this publication, diacritical marks are used with Roman letters and with non-Roman characters in many languages of the world; e.g. the cedilla ( ¸ ) is used with the letter c to form ç in French, and the breve (˘) is used with the letter И to form Й in Russian.  Diacritical marks are just as important as the basic letters and characters of any orthography or romanization system, and, therefore, should never be omitted.  Modifying marks that occur internally in both Roman letters and non-Roman characters, e.g., the horizontal bar in the Croatian letter đ and the vertical bar in the Azerbaijani Cyrillic character Ҹ, are not generally considered to be diacritical marks but are just as significant and, therefore, should always be retained.

It should be noted that for clarity of presentation and ease of reference the terms character and letter have been used in a mutually exclusive way throughout this publication.  The term character has been used to refer to a graphic symbol used only in a non-Roman-script writing system, thereby restricting the term letter to a graphic symbol used only in a Roman-script writing system or in a set of romanization equivalents.
Finally, it may well be pointed out that although the romanization systems and agreements contained in this publication have been approved by the BGN and the PCGN for application to geographic names, some or all of the systems may be equally applicable to personal names and to text and indeed have been used for such purposes for many years by organizations both within the U.S. and the U.K.

Please refer to the appendices for Unicode values for letters used in BGN/PCGN romanization systems, as well as for hints on optimizing computer software and operating systems to allow display of Unicode characters and letters.  Please refer to the BGN website for updates to this guide and additional information: http://geonames.usgs.gov/, as well as to the PCGN website: http://www.pcgn.org.uk.  Information on other transliteration systems for toponyms is also maintained on the website of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names Working Group on Romanization Systems: http://www.eki.ee/wgrs/.

 

It is requested that users of this publication aid in its correction for future printings by reporting errors and changes to either of the addresses listed below.  References to or copies of the sources upon which the proposed changes are based should be included.

BGN Executive Secretary, Foreign Names Committee
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Political Geography Division
7500 GEOINT Drive
Springfield, Virginia 22150
U.S.A.

UK Permanent Committee on Geographical Names
C/O The Royal Geographical Society
1 Kensington Gore
London SW7 2AR
U.K.

________________________
* These definitions were agreed upon in 1971 by the UN Working Group on a Single Romanization System for Each Non-Roman Writing System and were included in that group’s report in the UN document, Second United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, London, 10-13 May 1972, vol. II, p. 115.

 

 

Romanization System Class Date Approved Originator
Afghanistan (Unified Agreement) System 2007 BGN/PCGN
Amharic System 1967 BGN/PCGN
Arabic System 1956 BGN/PCGN
Armenian System 1981 BGN/PCGN
Avar System 2011 BGN/PCGN
Azerbaijani Table of Correspondences 2002 Govt of Azerbaijan 1991
Baluchi System 2008 BGN/PCGN
Bashkir Agreement 2007 BGN/PCGN
Bulgarian System 1952 BGN/PCGN
Burmese Agreement 1970 Govt of Burma 1907
Belarusian System 1979 BGN/PCGN
Chechen Table of Correspondences 2008 BGN/PCGN
Chinese Pinyin Agreement 1979 Govt of China
Chuvash System 2011 BGN/PCGN
Dzongkha Agreement 2010 Royal Government of Bhutan
Faroese Roman Script Spelling Convention 1968 BGN/PCGN
Georgian Agreement 2009 Georgia National System (2002)
German Roman Script Spelling Convention 1986 BGN/PCGN
Greek Agreement 1996 Greek Organization for Standardization
Hebrew Agreement 1962 Hebrew Academy
Icelandic Roman Script Spelling Convention 1968 BGN/PCGN
Japanese Agreement 1930 Kana Modified Hepburn
Kabardian System 2011 BGN/PCGN
Karachay-Balkar Table of Correspondences 2008 BGN/PCGN
Kazakh Cyrillic System 1979 BGN/PCGN
Khmer (Cambodian) Agreement 1972

Service Géographique Khmère (SGK) 1959

Kirghiz Cyrillic System 1979 BGN/PCGN
Korean (North Korea) Agreement 1945 McCune-Reischauer System
Korean (South Korea) Agreement 2011 Ministry of Culture and Tourism System (2000)
Kurdish System 2007 BGN/PCGN
Lao System Agreement 1966 Lao Commission Nationale de Toponymie (CNT)
Macedonian Agreement 1981 BGN/PCGN
Maldivian Agreement 1988 Govt of Maldives
Moldovan Table of Correspondences 2002 Govt of Moldova
Mongolian Cyrillic System 1964 BGN/PCGN
Nepali System 2009 BGN/PCGN
North Lappish Roman Script Spelling Convention 1984 BGN/PCGN
Ossetian System 2009 BGN/PCGN
Pashto System 1968 BGN/PCGN
Persian System 1958 BGN/PCGN
Russian System 1947 BGN/PCGN
Serbian Cyrillic Agreement 2005 BGN/PCGN
Shan System 2011 BGN/PCGN
Modern Syriac System 2011 BGN/PCGN
Tajik Cyrillic System 1994 BGN/PCGN
Tatar Table of Correspondences 2005 BGN/PCGN
Thai Agreement 2002 Royal Institute of Thailand, 2000 Version
Tigrinya System 2007 BGN/PCGN
Turkmen Table of Correspondences 2000 Govt of Turkmenistan
Udmurt System 2011 BGN/PCGN
Ukrainian System 1965 BGN/PCGN
Urdu System 2007 BGN/PCGN
Uzbek Table of Correspondences 2000 Govt of Uzbekistan
Yakut System 2012 BGN/PCGN





 
Point of Contact: GEOnet Names Server
NGA Campus East
phone 571-557-5959, DSN 547-5959
geonames@nga.mil

Document last modified July 17, 2014

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