To transpose or not to transpose ... personal names

As far as I know, every Japanese citizen (except the Emperor and his family members) legally has one family name and one personal name, no more, no less. And the order is family name first. This is a rigid rule in the context of Japanese language.

But when introducing their names in the context of English or other western languages, most of Japanese people transpose them, to place the personal name first. It seems to be a kind of "de facto" rule.

[[Problems arise about historical names. In pre-modern times, not everyone had family names, and the role of family names to those who had them may be different from the modern one. In addition, historical names before about 1200 CE are usually pronounced with a particle (postposition) "no" between the family name and the personal name. The function of "no" is similar to "de" in French, "von" in German and "van" in Dutch, but in the opposite direction. If we transpose, how to dispense with the "no"? ]]

[[Also, problems may arise about pen names of writers and stage names of actors. For example, the pen name "EDOGAWA Ranpo" is a parody of "Edgar Alan POE", which would lose sense if transposed.]]

In Chinese and Korean, the order is family name first. And the names are usually not transposed even in English context, at least in newspapers. I guess that Chinese and Korean names are usually read in one breath and it is mentally difficult to separate family names and personal names, while Japanese names may be read in two breaths.

When Chinese and Korean natural scientists write articles in English, however, they usually write their names with the family name last, similarly to what Japanese do. (Some publications in China do not follow the convention, and it is often difficult to know what part of a Chinese name written in Roman letters is the family name.)

Western people face the need of transposition when their names are indexed, because sorting in the alphabetical order of the family name is preferred. To keep the list of authors easier to browse, the names are (at least that of the first author is) transposed so that the family name of the first author appear at the beginning of the line. In order to show the transposition explicitly, a comma is usually inserted. But a comma is also used to separate a name with another, and the result may be cumbersome, e.g. "Boyle, Robert, and Charles, Jacques Alexandre César" -- How many people are there and what is the family name? ("Boyle, R., and Charles, J.A.C." is understandable though still it seems to have too many commas.)

I think it is better to make transposition as few times as possible. The family name can be marked by other means. Recently many scientific journals published in Japan use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS to make family names stand out wherever in the list of names they exist. There are many nations and ethnic groups in the world in which people do not have distinct family names, however. If the parts other than family names are not capitalized, names of those people become less easily found than Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Western names. Probably it should not be the family name, but the part of the name to be the primary index key, that should be capitalized.

I feel that ALL CAPITAL is too strong, anyway. I think SMALL CAPITAL is better for marking the family name (more precisely, the part of name to be the index key). I remember that foreign family names were written in small capitals in several Japanese scientific publications, notably in the journal Kagaku (though the journal ceased the practice by now).

[[I guess that this practice was introduced from Germany many decades ago. In German all nouns are written with the first letter capitalized, so proper names do not stand out without additional means.]]

I want to follow the practice as far as possible. Unfortunately, there is no explicit way to assign SMALL CAPITAL in HTML. I use here "<small> ...</small>", which makes the marked character string to appear smaller in most of browsers though not necessarily in all browsers. The downside of this convention is that (for example) "R<small>ICHARDSON</small>" may be missed by character string search for "Richardson" or "RICHARDSON". Also, maybe it does not work correctly in header strings. [[Previously I used "<font size="-1"> ...</font>", but I now realized that "<small>" is better.]]

2004-Jun-22; revised 2005-Apr-26, 2008-May-06
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