rootstrust and Exotic Languages

The following announcement was written by Atavus, Inc.:

The GEDCOM 5.5.1 specification allows for romanized and phonetic variations of personal and place names. Name variations allow for a phonetic representation of a language whose symbols have no intrinsic phonetic value, like Chinese characters. Romanized variations use Latin letters, whereas phonetic variations use non-Latin alphabetic or syllabic symbols. Students of Chinese often use Pinyin to learn the pronunciation of the characters they are learning. Pinyin is one of numerous romanization systems for Chinese.

The Chinese of the Peoples Republic of China, Singapore and Malaysia write using simplified Chinese characters, whereas the Taiwanese and the people of Hong Kong and Macau use traditional Chinese characters. Written Japanese contains Chinese characters called kanji along with symbols from two different non-Latin, phonetic, syllabic symbol sets called katakana and hiragana making it, arguably, the world’s most complex writing system. Kanji can be represented phonetically using katakana or hiragana. Korean also uses a syllabic writing system called Hangul which is used in conjunction with Chinese characters call Hanja.

Some genealogists who have exotic ancestral personal and place names prefer to maintain them in the original language and provide a romanized variation as a comment. Others rather record names in a romanized form and document the original language and spelling as a comment.

rootstrust developed and maintained by Atavus, Inc., has supported romanized and phonetic variations for both personal and place names starting with its beta release in 2013, however that support, was passive, i.e. the user was responsible for all input. The current version of rootstrust actively supports name variations for some languages: you enter a name in the original language, and, upon request, rootstrust will generate romanized and/or phonetic variations for you. The following figure shows that rootstrust has just generated ‘Xí Jìnpíng’ as the romanized variation of 习近平. The diacritical marks above the vowels are tone indicators.

While name variations were originally intended for the major Far Eastern languages Chinese, Japanese and Korean, they also can be used for any language that uses a non-Latin writing system such as Greek, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Armenian Georgian, Thai, Burmese, Tibetan, Cherokee or the languages of the Indian subcontinent.

If you prefer to enter exotic personal and place names in romanized script, you can use the “Original Form” tab on the rootstrust’s Place detail form or Name detail form to document the name in its original language. The following figure shows how the name of a small Bulgarian village has been documented primarily in romanized script and secondarily in the original Cyrillic.

Following is a summary of rootstrust’s features for supporting exotic personal and place name variations.

1. Unicode. The first requirement for supporting exotic languages is a character set that contains the necessary symbols. rootstrust uses the UTF-8 character set which is a space-saving version of Unicode. If you select the Arial MS Unicode font (WenQuanYi Micro Hei for Linux systems) as your text font, you will be able to enter text in virtually any of the world’s languages.

2. Romanized variation systems. One or more systems are offered for each supported language.

a. Chinese: Gwoyeu Romatzyh,  MPS2,  Pinyin, Tongyong, Wade Giles and Yale.
b. Japanese: Hepburn Rōmaji.
c. Korean: Revised Romanization of Korean.
d. Russian: ISO 1995, BGN/PCGN, Russian Passport 2013.

3. Phonetic variation systems. One or more systems are offered for each supported language.

a. Chinese: Bopomofo (AKA Mandarin Phonetic Symbols).
b. Japanese: Hiragana, Katakana.
c. Korean: Hangul.

4. Chinese character converter. Converts traditional Chinese to simplified or vice versa.

5. Extended Keyboard. Allows you to select one of 50+ pre-programmed panels of buttons that give you access to characters of many of the world’s languages that have an alphabetic or syllabic system of writing. Panels for bopomofo, hangul, katakana and hiragana are included. The Extended Keyboard is extensible: the user can add panels for additional languages.

Upon request and where technically feasible, Atavus is willing to add romanized and/or phonetic variation systems for additional languages as well as Extended Keyboard panels.

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