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There seem to be some inconsistencies, for example, "t" becomes "tsu" in スーツケース, but "to" in メトロ. "eer" becomes "iiru" in ビール, but it seems like in most words it's "ia", for example business names with "peer" are transliterated as ピア. Are some of these non-srandard? What are the standars and are they generally followed?

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    ビール seems to have the origin in Dutch (source).
    – sundowner
    Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 23:22
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    As @sundowner suggested, not all words are derived from English. And, when derived from English, it's not based on English spelling, but how the word is pronounced. Whose pronunciation? British? American? Australian? etc Often the borrowed words dramatically change in pronunciation and in meaning. Consider サボる, which I'm sure is probably not the most dramatic such example.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 0:28
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    ケーキ is an interesting ケース.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 0:41
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    @aguijonazo I think ガレージ is based on a British variant. ガラージュ sounds more American based.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 2:40
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    @aguijonazo Herb is pronounced with the H in Britain
    – Angelos
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 10:02

1 Answer 1

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There are several factors.

  • Not all words have been directly transliterated from English words in the first place. In particular, personal names like Michael are transliterated in various ways depending on their nationality.
  • In many cases, this is simply a matter of old habits. According to current practices, suit would be transliterated as スート, but we say スーツ when referring to a type of clothing because vowel-less t was often transliterated as ツ in the past (cutlet = カツレツ, etc). But in newer fields like card games, suit is called スート. See this question for similar examples: Words that have been borrowed twice, with different pronunciations?
  • Words that were borrowed to Japanese many years ago tended to be based on British pronunciations. For example, "audio" is オーディオ rather than アーディオ. While British influence is still seen in the transliteration of new words, this may be slowly changing.
  • Today, we have a large number of extended katakana to approximate foreign sounds, but old Japanese speakers had a smaller number of phonemes. So "studio" had to be スタジオ rather than ステュディオ.
  • The transliteration of voiceless k is still not very consistent, but I think there is a tendency for キ to become ク. For example, text is usually テキスト since it's been around for many years, but context is transliterated as both コンテキスト and コンテクスト.
  • There is still inconsistency in whether to use the elongation mark or not: ブラウザ or ブラウザー? Words borrowed from English which end with -er

For entirely new words that are unrelated to these factors, I think the transliteration from English to Japanese is relatively standardized today.

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