Meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Romanization Systems,
Institute of the Estonian Language, Tallinn, Estonia

9th–10th October 2006

Agenda Item 1 – Adoption of the Agenda

The Meeting was opened by the host and Convenor of the Working Group, Peeter Päll. Mr Päll welcomed the participants (see Annex A) and invited the Director of the Institute of the Estonian Language formally to open proceedings. The Institute's Director, Urmas Sutrop, welcomed delegates and described some of the Institute's ongoing projects. A number of Estonian language dictionaries were in production, including the Eesti õigekeelsussõnaraamat to be released the following week, and a 7 volume dictionary to be published in 2007. These publications had many applications, including for examinations such as the Citizenship test.

Mr Päll had received correspondence from the UNGEGN Chair, Helen Kerfoot, who had been unable to attend, but who sent wishes for a successful meeting. One of the UNGEGN Vice-Chairs, Brahim Atoui, was in attendance at the meeting.

The Meeting was informed that that afternoon there was to be the inauguration ceremony for the new President of Estonia, who would be the youngest President in Europe.

The provisional agenda was adopted.

Agenda Item 2 – Status of Romanization Systems

The Convenor presented a report which had been prepared by the State Service of Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre in Ukraine, outlining considerations to modify the 1996 national system for Ukrainian. It was likely that any alteration would be restricted to a simplification of the rules of application. The Working Group would recommend this system for international use, when presented to the United Nations.

The Convenor reported on a romanization system that had been prepared by the Institute of Bulgarian Language in Bulgaria. The system and an accompanying transliteration tool could be viewed at This system was likely to be officially approved in Bulgaria later this year, and had been in use in some official sources since 2000.

The Convenor reported on romanization in Belarus, describing the Instructions which had been followed for romanization since 2000, and which had been used on a number of official cartographic products and encyclopaedias. There had been some subsequent minor revisions to the Instructions. The Convenor hoped to clarify the application of the system with Belarus. It was hoped that Belarus would present the revised system to the 9th United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names (UNCSGN) to be held in August 2007.

The Convenor had visited Georgia and was able to confirm that the 2002 national system of romanization was in some use in that country, if not yet fully implemented. This system employed the apostrophe to denote the abruptive consonants rather than the aspirated consonants as the BGN/PCGN system did.

Mr Woodman discussed the official procedures for romanization in the countries of south Asia, particularly in India and Pakistan, and demonstrated that these did not accord with the 1972 UNCSGN Resolution on this subject, which had approved separate romanization systems for each of the major languages.

Mr Viechnicki reported on the status of the new BGN/PCGN Romanization Guide, which was to be published shortly; the systems to be included in the Guide had been reviewed in collaboration with the UK Permanent Committee on Geographical Names. The Guide was to be published both in hard-copy and electronically, and copies would be available on request. Mr Viechnicki also reported that the United States had recently prepared and approved a number of country policies, and that development of romanization systems for a number of minority languages was being discussed.

The Armenian Centre of Geodesy and Cartography had proposed a romanization system to their government's Special Committee on Geographical Names. The Convenor had recently lost contact with the Armenians, which he would try to re-establish.

Mr Kadmon reported on recent activities by the Academy of the Hebrew Language concerning amendments to the system for Hebrew. The principal changes, to the romanization of three consonants, were intended to simplify spellings for English-language readers. The modifications had been approved and would soon be published in the official government gazette. Mr Kadmon would provide the Working Group with details; in summary, the proposed changes were w → v; ẕ → ts and q → k.

In addition, the Royal Jordanian System was currently under consideration to be adopted for Arabic names in Israel.

The Convenor described a provisional system for Khmer prepared by the Geography Department in Cambodia. The Working Group discussed the presentation of a number of the vowels and agreed on the necessity to continue correspondence with Cambodia.

The Convenor explained orthographic reforms which were potentially under consideration in Kazakhstan and ranged from changes to the Cyrillic inventory to the adoption of a Roman script.

Mr Woodman outlined language development in the countries of the former Yugoslavia and presented a paper on the effect of Montenegrin independence on language.

The Convenor presented some background information on systems which were being used for internal purposes in Estonia. The Working Group discussed the possibility of gathering information about nationally-applied systems. Mrs Calvarin distributed copies of systems being applied in France.

A brief update on the system for Amharic was presented by the Convenor. The Working Group discussed whether the system being applied in Ethiopia, which appeared to omit diacritical marks, was a new system or a simplification. The Convenor would attempt to contact the Ethiopian Mapping Agency for further details. Mr Atoui, who was planning to attend the UN Cartographic Conference for Africa in Ethiopia in May 2007, offered to assist in this endeavour.

The Convenor reported that contact had been lost with authorities in Bhutan with whom he had been communicating on a system for Dzongkha.

The Convenor had approached Mongolia to request information on any potential romanization systems for Mongolian. However local efforts were currently concentrating on the establishment of a national committee on geographical names. Mr Viechnicki offered to pass any questions on through his US colleagues who were arranging a visit to Mongolia in November 2006.

The romanization of Arabic was likely to be discussed at a meeting of the Arabic Division and an accompanying toponymic training course being planned in north Africa in 2007.

The Working Group examined the status of each of the other romanization systems, included in the Working Group report (available at the status of Persian required further investigation; the introduction to the system for Serbian required rewording following the independence of Montenegro; an Act concerning geographical names had been adopted in Tajikistan, but the question of the romanization of Tajik had not yet been considered. It was proving difficult to acquire official information on the status of Lao, Maldivian and Tigrinya.

Agenda Item 3 – Update to the Report on Status of Romanization Systems

The Working Group detailed changes to be made to the Report of the Working Group. It was agreed that amendments would be made to the text for Amharic, Armenian, Korean, Maldivian, Serbian and Sinhala; and to the tables for Bulgarian, Hebrew, Khmer, and Lao.

Agenda Item 4 – Working Group Activities

The website of the Working Group was examined ( Some tables were also available in html format, to facilitate manipulation of the text, but a Unicode-compatible font was necessary in order to display the contents correctly. The Convenor would continue to make further systems available in this format. The addition of a link to the Unicode Consortium website would assist users.

Agenda Item 5 – Preparation for the 9th UNCSGN, 2007

The Working Group discussed its preparations for the forthcoming Ninth Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names and potential Resolutions. A presentation from Ukraine on a system for Ukrainian was anticipated. The Working Group discussed the question of national implementation of romanization systems and mooted the possibility of drafting a Resolution recommending a time allowance for implementation. Mr Woodman would prepare a first draft.

Agenda Item 6 – Other Issues

The Convenor reported on correspondence with the President of the Unicode Consortium, who was keen to learn about UN-approved romanization systems and include a number of systems in trialling his Locale Data Markup Language (LDML) model.

The Vice-Chair of UNGEGN thanked the hosts for organizing the meeting and the UNGEGN Experts for taking part in the session.