I've asked the same question over on Japanese Language Stack Exchange, but I think that the focus on the Japanese language alone will net few results overall. What I'm looking for is a standardized orthography to reference when converting text in Itak's use of katakana to English characters to allow for easier access of the language to all my English-speaking friends. Even outside of that, the use of English characters I feel could go a long way in helping people learn even small bits of the language.

I've found this guide on my own, but it's inconsistent in places and does not entirely meet my needs. The dictionary that I primarily use does not make use of the specialized katakana, and instead uses the standard characters, making it difficult to determine where a consonant keeps its vowel and where it loses it. I'd look for a different dictionary, but this is still by and far the best one I've found. The very few I've been able to find in English do not have much in the way of content, typically only providing very basics terms that may not even be all that useful.

I've meant to join this site before for a fairly long time. Now that I have, I ask for any and all advice in regards to this matter, and I hope that I can gather some of the knowledge I've seen around here before. Thank you for reading and for your time.

  • Be careful when reading the old books by Englishman John Batchelor; he had a strong tendency (not sure why - perhaps by influence from Japanese moraic structure?) to record word-final vowels where phonemically there is none. He wrote koro where modern-day man writes kor (to have), or he writes nepe where we write nep. What's more, Batchelor's reference grammar says that to pronounce the suffix -p without the final e is improper. Sep 4, 2018 at 7:38

2 Answers 2


Annoyingly, while everyone seems to say the Latin orthography is standardized, none seem to provide a clear explanation of it. I came across an article[*] which seemed promising, but on this matter says only that "all three script options [katakana, hiragana, Latin] have been standardized over the past 100 years".

Several resources cite Kayano Shigeru no Ainugo jiten (Kayano Shigeru's Ainu Language Dictionary) regarding transcription, but my knowledge of Japanese is insufficient to make any use of it.

Wikipedia has the most useful chart I've found so far, but that section cites no sources whatsoever.

Another site provides the same text in Latin and Kana (as well as Cyrillic and a screenshot of the kana for non-Unicode browsers), taken from the Ainu Times. While not as useful as a proper explanation of the orthography, one would imagine the Times to be about as standard as it gets.

The preface to this dictionary mentions the Latin orthography being superior to Cyrillic, but provides details on neither. It's also from 1905.

[*] "Re-vitalizing an indigenous language: Dictionaries of Ainu languages in Japan, 1625-2013." Hansen, Annette Skovsted. Lexicographica. 2014, Vol. 30 Issue 1, p547-578. 32p (Database: Communication & Mass Media Complete)


The de facto standard method for transcribing Ainu (both in Latin alphabet and in katakana) being used today is the one proposed in Akor Itak, a textbook published by the Hokkaido Utari Association (now Hokkaido Ainu Association) in 1994. It is often referred to as “(nearly) phonemic transcription” ((簡易)音素表記 in Japanese). What makes it different from some of the older romanization methods (e.g. the one devised by Batchelor in his Ainu-English-Japanese Dictionary) is the usage of ⟨c⟩, ⟨s⟩, ⟨y⟩, ⟨w⟩, where others would use ⟨ch⟩, ⟨sh⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨u⟩ respectively (the last two rules only apply in syllable-final position, after a vowel). For example, the words transcribed as “ikkeu” and “kamui-chep” by Batchelor are written as “ikkew” and “kamuycep” in modern dictionaries. Apart from that, the equal sign “=” is used to indicate personal affixes (e.g. “ci=nukar”, rather than “chinukar”). For more examples, you may refer to the following resources (all of them apply the romanization standard described above):

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