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A follow-up question from How do you translate FreeBSD into Russian?, what is the rule that makes New York have a hyphen when written in proper Russian?

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From a reference book by Rozenthal, much trusted author: http://www.evartist.narod.ru/text1/24.htm

§17. Географические и административно-территориальные названия

4.Части сложных географических названий пишутся с прописной буквы, причем соединяются дефисом, если они образованы: д) сочетанием иноязычных элементов, например: Алма-Ата («отец яблок»), Норд-Кап («северный мыс»), Нью-Йорк («новый Йорк»).

'Parts of geographical names are capitalized and hyphenated 
 in cases where they... combine foreign 
 language elements, for example: Нью-Йорк ('New York', "новый Йорк").'

Actually, that rule is true for cities as opposed to e.g. country names (words may get translation, then no hyphens: Новая Гвинея, Новая Зеландия) or street names (the 'Street' element, "-стрит" doesn't use a capital letter). One more typical transcribed name with hyphens: Солт-Лейк-Сити. An exception (for some traditional reason): Новый Орлеан (New Orleans).

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    Новая Гвинея and similar don't use hypens because they have a full form Russian adjective in front, not because they are countries. Кот-д'Ивуар and Буркина-Фасо are hyphenated alright, while Новый Орлеан and Нижний Новгород are not. – Quassnoi May 17 '15 at 10:10
  • My point was about no Russian words in city names at transcription. So yes, strictly speaking that doesn't compromise the rule above. It's more about practical transcription methods in combination with that rule (those are not part of it). – Alex_ander May 17 '15 at 10:35
  • Hyphens are used to make several words one. There is no reason to treat Новый Орлеан any differently from other Russian nominal phrases: it can be declined, number inflected and even form an adjective новоорлеанский (which changes the first word in concord with Russian grammar). You can't do this anymore even if you but change the word order, so perfectly Russian names like Новгород-Северский and Ростов-на-Дону have to be merged into a single word. – Quassnoi May 17 '15 at 11:32
  • So foreign nominal phrases naturally have to be coalesced using hyphens into a single Russian word too, but the main reason they can't be treated as nominal phrases in Russian, not just the fact them being foreign. – Quassnoi May 17 '15 at 11:33
  • You gave a perfect linguistic explanation which I can't but agree with. I have the same feeling that name parts tend to get collected into a single word (by means of hyphens) when they don't have clear meaning of a phrase. However, the rule lines I referred to (subparagraph 4д) just give a pattern to follow in a specific case (combination of elements from a foreign language), not an explanation of general reasons for it. The original question was specifically about the rule the particular city name follows. So it's only a written rule. – Alex_ander May 17 '15 at 12:25

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