Romanization of geographical names – University of Copenhagen

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UNGEGN Norden Division > About UNGEGN > Romanization

Romanization of geographical names

One of the great problems of standardization of place-names is the representation of geographical names in different alphabets and scripts. Since there is rarely a one-to-one relationship between the symbols of different alphabets, the risk of misrepresentation of geographical names from unsystematic conversion systems is imminent.

From the outset, one of the general aims of UNGEGN has been to arrive at an agreement on a single, scientifically based, romanization system from each non-Roman alphabet or script for international application (Resolution I/9). To aid the process, a special working group under the responsibility of the United Nations Permanent Committee of Experts on Geographical Names was set up, Working Group on Romanization Systems.

Since 1967, UNGEGN has adopted resolutions recommending romanization for more than 25 alphabets and/or scripts. To view the individual conversion systems from non-Roman languages into Roman, please visit the homepage of the Working Group on Romanization Systems.

The Roman writing system has 26 letters (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z) as its core alphabet. However, English is the only writing system which uses only this set of letters. Many of the Roman language-systems use their own special diacritics and/or special letters. For an overview of writing systems in the Roman alphabet, please read the survey Alphabets, Letters and Diacritics in European Languages (pdf-file, 271 kB) prepared by the Norwegian linguist Vikleik Leira.