Polivanov system

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Polivanov system is a system of transliterating the Japanese language into Russian Cyrillic script, either to represent Japanese proper names or terms in Russian or as an aid to Japanese language learning in those languages. The system was developed by Yevgeny Polivanov in 1917.

In terms of spelling the system is a middle ground between Kunrei-shiki and Hepburn romanisations, matching the former everywhere except for morae hu and tu, which are spelled as in Hepburn (fu and tsu), moras starting with z (which are spelled with dz, as in archaic Hepburn, but following the consistency of Kunrei-shiki with Jun being spelled as Dzyun) and syllabic n, which is changed to m before b, p and m as in traditional Hepburn.

The following cyrillization system for Japanese is known as the Yevgeny Polivanov system. Note that it has its own spelling conventions and does not necessarily constitute a direct phonetic transcription of the pronunciation into the standard Russian usage of the Cyrillic alphabet.

Main table[edit]

Hiragana and Katakana to Polivanov cyrillization correspondence table, for single/modified kana.[citation needed]

Kana Cyrillic Hepburn
а a
ка ka
са sa
та ta
на na
ха ha
ма ma
я ya
ра ra
ва wa
га ga
дза za
да da
ба ba
па pa
Kana Cyrillic Hepburn
и/й i
ки ki
си shi
ти chi
ни ni
хи hi
ми mi
ри ri
ви wi
ги gi
дзи ji
дзи ji
би bi
пи pi
Kana Cyrillic Hepburn
у u
ку ku
су su
цу tsu
ну nu
фу fu
му mu
ю yu
ру ru
гу gu
дзу zu
дзу zu
бу bu
пу pu
Kana Cyrillic Hepburn
э e
кэ ke
сэ se
тэ te
нэ ne
хэ he
мэ me
рэ re
вэ we
гэ ge
дзэ ze
дэ de
бэ be
пэ pe
Kana Cyrillic Hepburn
о o
ко ko
со so
то to
но no
хо ho
мо mo
ё yo
ро ro
во wo
го go
дзо zo
до do
бо bo
по po
Kana Cyrillic Hepburn
きゃ キャ кя kya
しゃ シャ ся sha
ちゃ チャ тя cha
にゃ ニャ ня nya
ひゃ ヒャ хя hya
みゃ ミャ мя mya
りゃ リャ ря rya
ぎゃ ギャ гя gya
じゃ ジャ дзя ja
ぢゃ ヂャ дзя ja
びゃ ビャ бя bya
ぴゃ ピャ пя pya
Kana Cyrillic Hepburn
きゅ キュ кю kyu
しゅ シュ сю shu
ちゅ チュ тю chu
にゅ ニュ ню nyu
ひゅ ヒュ хю hyu
みゅ ミュ мю myu
りゅ リュ рю ryu
ぎゅ ギュ гю gyu
じゅ ジュ дзю ju
ぢゅ ヂュ дзю ju
びゅ ビュ бю byu
ぴゅ ピュ пю pyu
Kana Cyrillic Hepburn
きょ キョ кё kyo
しょ ショ сё sho
ちょ チョ тё cho
にょ ニョ нё nyo
ひょ ヒョ хё hyo
みょ ミョ мё myo
りょ リョ рё ryo
ぎょ ギョ гё gyo
じょ ジョ дзё jo
ぢょ ヂョ дзё jo
びょ ビョ бё byo
ぴょ ピョ пё pyo

Syllabic n (ん/ン) is spelled м (m) before b, p, m, and spelled нъ before ya, yu, yo.

Grammar particles は and へ are written ва and э. Syllable を is written either во or о depending on pronunciation.


It is permitted to use й instead of и in Chinese diphthongs ai and ei (e.g. синдзитай, сэйнэн).

Geminate consonants[edit]

Consonants are geminated exactly as they are in romaji: e.g. -kk- > -кк-.

Long vowels[edit]

Long vowels may be marked by macron as in Hepburn, but since letter ё has a diacritical mark already it is permitted and much more common to mark long vowels by using a colon (e.g. сё:гун). The sequence ei may be written э:, эй or эи. In regular texts long vowels are usually unmarked.

Common errors and deviations[edit]

In English texts, Japanese names are written with the Hepburn system. Attempts may be made to transcribe these as if they were English, rather than following a dedicated Japanese Cyrillization scheme.

A common example of this is attempting to transcribe shi (Polivanov: си) as ши and ji (Polivanov: дзи) as джи. This is inadvisable for use in Russian, because ши is actually pronounced like шы in Russian, and джи like джы, thus making the vowel (/ɨ/) closer to Japanese /u/ than to Japanese /i/. Whereas, щи would have a correct vowel sound, but be pronounced more like Japanese sshi.

Equally often, people transcribe cha, chi, chu, cho as ча, чи, чу, чо. This is phonetically correct, but does not conform with the Polivanov scheme (тя, ти, тю, тё), which more closely resembles the Kunrei-shiki romanisations (tya, ti, tyu, tyo) for these particular characters.

Sometimes е, rather than э, is used for e, despite е being pronounced ye in Russian (though not in other languages). This is typically not done in the initial position, despite older romanisations such as "Yedo" doing so. In any case, it does not conform with the Polivanov scheme, although it is seen as more acceptable for words that are in general use (e.g. kamikaze > камикадзе instead of камикадзэ). Replacing ё (yo) with е (ye) is incorrect, however, as it will change the Japanese word too much.

The sound yo (Polivanov: ё), when in the initial position or after a vowel, is often written as йо (yo), which has the same pronunciation: Ёкосука -> Йокосука (Yokosuka), Тоёта -> Тойота (Toyota). Although, the spelling "йо" is not common in Russian words, these are more generally accepted for Japanese names than the transliterations using "ё". "Ё" is not often used in Japanese Cyrillization due to its facultative use in the Russian language (and possible substitution with the letter "Е" which would affect the pronunciation), but for professional translators, the use of ё is mandatory.[citation needed] Some personal names beginning with "Yo" (or used after a vowel) are written using "Ё" (e.g. Йоко for Yoko Ono, but Ёко for Yoko Kanno and all other Yokos).


Some proper names, for historical reasons, do not follow the above rules. Those include but are not limited to:[citation needed]

English (Rōmaji) Russian spelling Cyrillization Japanese
Japan (Nihon, Nippon) Япония Нихон, Ниппон 日本 (にほん, にっぽん)
Tokyo (Tōkyō) Токиo То:кё: 東京 (とうきょう)
Kyoto (Kyōto) Киото Кё:то 京都 (きょうと)
Yokohama Иокогама (also Йокохама) Ёкохама 横浜 (よこはま)
Yokosuka Йокосука Ёкосука 横須賀 (よこすか)
Toyota Тойота (Тоёта in older publications) Тоёта トヨタ (originally: 豊田)
jujitsu (jūjutsu) джиу-джитсу дзю:дзюцу 柔術 (じゅうじゅつ)
yen (en) иена эн 円 (えん)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]