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Traditional Chinese:
Simplified Chinese:
Scheme of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet
Traditional Chinese:
Simplified Chinese:
Chinese romanization
Mandarin for Standard Mandarin
    Hanyu Pinyin (ISO standard)
    Gwoyeu Romatzyh
        Spelling conventions
    Latinxua Sin Wenz
    Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II
    Chinese Postal Map Romanization
    Tongyong Pinyin
    Legge romanization
    Simplified Wade
    Comparison chart
Cantonese for Standard Cantonese
    Guangdong Romanization
    Hong Kong Government
    Sidney Lau
    S. L. Wong (phonetic symbols)
    S. L. Wong (romanisation)
    Standard Cantonese Pinyin
    Standard Romanization
    Long-short (romanization)
Min Nan
for Taiwanese, Amoy, and related
    Daighi tongiong pingim
For Hainanese
    Hainanhua Pinyin Fang'an
For Teochew
Min Dong for Fuzhou dialect
    Foochow Romanized
Hakka for Moiyan dialect
    Kejiahua Pinyin Fang'an
For Siyen dialect
See also:
   General Chinese (Chao Yuenren)
   Romanisation in Singapore
   Romanisation in the ROC
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Pinyin, or more formally Hanyu pinyin, is the most commonly used Romanization system for Standard Mandarin. Hanyu is the Han (Chinese) language, and pinyin means "phonetics", or more literally, "spelling sound" or "spelled sound".[1] Developed by a government committee in the People's Republic of China (PRC), the system was initially approved by the Chinese government on February 11, 1958.[2] The International Organization for Standardization adopted pinyin as the international standard in 1982,[3] and since then it has been adopted by many other organizations. Since January 1, 2009, it is also the official romanization system in the Republic of China (ROC).[4][5] It is used to teach Chinese schoolchildren and foreign learners the standard pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese, to spell Chinese names in foreign publications and to enter Chinese characters (hanzi) on computers.


[edit] History

In 1954, the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China (PRC) created a Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language. This committee developed Hanyu pinyin based upon several preexisting systems: (Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz of 1931, and the diacritic markings from zhuyin).[6] The main force behind pinyin was Zhou Youguang.[7] Zhou was working in a New York bank when he decided to return to China to help rebuild the country after the Korean War. He became an economics professor in Shanghai and was assigned[8] to help the development of a new romanization system.

A first draft was published on February 12, 1956. The first edition of Hanyu pinyin was approved and adopted at the Fifth Session of the 1st National People's Congress on February 11, 1958. It was then introduced to primary schools as a way to teach Standard Mandarin pronunciation and used to improve the literacy rate among adults. In 2001, the Chinese Government issued the National Common Language Law, providing a legal basis for applying pinyin.[9]

[edit] Usage

Pinyin superseded older romanization systems such as Wade-Giles (1859; modified 1892) and Chinese Postal Map Romanization, and replaced zhuyin as the method of Chinese phonetic instruction in mainland China. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as the standard romanization for modern Chinese in 1982 (ISO 7098:1982, superseded by ISO 7098:1991); the United Nations followed suit in 1986.[10] It has also been accepted by the government of Singapore, the United States' Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and many other international institutions.[11]

The spelling of Chinese geographical or personal names in pinyin has become the most common way to transcribe them in English. Pinyin has also become a useful tool for entering Chinese language text into computers.

Chinese speaking Standard Mandarin at home use pinyin to help children associate characters with spoken words which they already know; however, for the many Chinese who do not use Standard Mandarin at home, pinyin is used to teach them the Standard Mandarin pronunciation of words when they learn them in elementary school.

Pinyin has become a tool for many foreigners to learn the Mandarin pronunciation, and is used to explain the grammar and spoken Mandarin together with hanzi. Books containing both Chinese characters and pinyin are popular with foreign learners of Chinese; pinyin's role in teaching pronunciation to foreigners and children is similar in some respects to furigana-based books (with hiragana letters written above or next to kanji) in Japanese or fully vocalised texts in Arabic ("vocalised Arabic").

[edit] Overview

The correspondence between letter and sound does not follow any single other language, but does not depart any more from the norms of the Latin alphabet than many European languages. For example, the aspiration distinction between b, d, g and p, t, k is similar to that of English, but not to that of French. Z and c also have that distinction; however, they are pronounced as [ts], as in languages such as German, Italian, and Polish, which do not have that distinction. From s, z, c come the digraphs sh, zh, ch by analogy with English sh, ch; although this introduces the novel combination zh, it is internally consistent in how the two series are related, and represents the fact that many Chinese pronounce sh, zh, ch as s, z, c. In the x, j, q series, x rather resembles its pronunciation in Catalan, though q is more novel and its pronunciation is similar to the ch in China. Pinyin vowels are pronounced similarly to vowels in Romance languages. More information on the pronunciation of all pinyin letters in terms of English approximations is given further below.

The pronunciation of Chinese is generally given in terms of initials and finals, which represent the segmental phonemic portion of the language. Initials are initial consonants, while finals are all possible combinations of medials (semivowels coming before the vowel), the nucleus vowel, and coda (final vowel or consonant).

[edit] Initials and finals

Unlike in European languages, initials (simplified Chinese: 声母; traditional Chinese: 聲母; pinyin: shengmu) and finals (simplified Chinese: 韵母; traditional Chinese: 韻母; pinyin: yunmu, or rhyming sounds) - and not consonants and vowels - are the fundamental elements in pinyin (and most other phonetic systems used to describe the Han language). Nearly each Chinese syllable can be spelled with exactly one initial followed by one final, except in the special syllable 'er' and when a trailing 'r' is considered part of a syllable (see below). The latter case, though a common practice in some sub-dialects, is rarely used in official publications.[12]

Even though most initials contain a consonant, finals are not simple vowels, especially in compound finals (simplified Chinese: 复韵母; traditional Chinese: 複韻母; pinyin: fuyunmu), i.e., when one "final" is placed in front of another one. For example, [i] and [u] are pronounced with such tight openings that some native Chinese speakers (especially when singing or on stage) pronounce yī (Chinese: , clothes, officially pronounced as /i/) as /ji/, wéi (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: , to enclose, officially as /uei/) as /wei/ or /wuei/. The concepts of consonants and vowels are not incorporated in pinyin or its predecessors, despite the fact that the Roman alphabets are used in pinyin. In the entire pinyin system, there is not a list of consonants, nor a list of vowels.

[edit] Initials

In each cell below, the first line indicates the IPA, the second indicates pinyin.

Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-
Palatal Velar
Plosive [p]
Nasal [m]
Lateral approximant [l]
Affricate [ts]
Fricative   [f]
[ʐ] 1
Approximant       [ɻ] 1
[j]2  or [ɥ]3

1 /ɻ/ may phonetically be /ʐ/ (a voiced retroflex fricative). This pronunciation varies among different speakers, and is not two different phonemes.
2 the letters "w" and "y" are not included in the table of initials in the official pinyin system. They are an orthographic convention for the medials "i", "u" and "ü" when no initial is present. When "i", "u" or "ü" are finals and no initial is present, they are spelled "yi", "wu", and "yu", respectively.
3 "y" is pronounced as [ɥ] before "u".

Conventional order (excluding w and y), derived from the zhuyin system, is:

b p m f d t n l g k h j q x zh ch sh r z c s

[edit] Finals

In each cell below, the first line indicates IPA, the second indicates pinyin for a standalone (no-initial) form, and the third indicates pinyin for a combination with an initial. Other than finals modified by an -r, which are omitted, the following is an exhaustive table of all possible finals. 1

The only syllable-final consonants in standard Mandarin are -n and -ng, and -r which is attached as a grammatical suffix. Chinese syllables ending with any other consonant is either from a non-Mandarin language (southern Chinese languages such as Cantonese, or minority languages of China), or it indicates the use of a non-pinyin Romanization system (where final consonants may be used to indicate tones).

Final Medial
Nucleus Coda Ø i u y
a Ø [ɑ]
i [aɪ̯]
u [ɑʊ̯]
n [an]
-üan 2
ŋ [ɑŋ]
ə Ø [ɤ]
-uo/-o 3
-üe 2
i [eɪ̯]
u [oʊ̯]
n [ən]
-ün 2
ŋ [əŋ]
[u̯əŋ], [ʊŋ] 4
Ø [z̩], [ʐ̩]


1 /ər/ (而, 二, etc.) is written as er. For other finals formed by the suffix -r, pinyin does not use special orthography; one simply appends -r to the final that it is added to, without regard for any sound changes that may take place along the way. For information on sound changes related to final -r, please see Standard Mandarin.
2 "ü" is written as "u" after j, q, x, or y.
3 "uo" is written as "o" after b, p, m, or f.
4 It is pronounced [ʊŋ] when it follows an initial, and pinyin reflects this difference.

Technically, i, u, ü without a following vowel are finals, not medials, and therefore take the tone marks, but they are more concisely displayed as above. In addition, ê [ɛ] and syllabic nasals like m are used as interjections.

[edit] Rules given in terms of English pronunciation

All rules given here in terms of English pronunciation are approximate, as several of these sounds do not correspond directly to sounds in English.

[edit] Pronunciation of initials

Pinyin IPA Explanation
b [p] unaspirated p, as in spit
p [pʰ] strongly aspirated p, as in pit
m [m] as in English mum
f [f] as in English fun
d [t] unaspirated t, as in stop
t [tʰ] strongly aspirated t, as in top
n [n] as in English nit
l [l] as in English love
g [k] unaspirated k, as in skill
k [kʰ] strongly aspirated k, as in kill
h [x] like the English h if followed by "a"; otherwise it is pronounced more roughly (like the Scots ch or Russian х (Cyrillic "kha")).
j [tɕ] like q, but unaspirated. Not unlike the j in jingle. Not the s in Asia, despite the common English pronunciation of "Beijing".
q [tɕʰ] like cheek, with the lips spread as when you say ee. Strongly aspirated.
x Voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative.ogg [ɕ] like she, with the lips spread as when you say ee. The sequence "xi" is like Japanese shi.
zh [ʈʂ] ch with no aspiration (a sound between joke and church, tongue tip curled more upwards); very similar to merger in American English, but not voiced
ch [ʈʂʰ] as in chin, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to nurture in American English, but strongly aspirated
sh [ʂ] as in shoe, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to marsh in American English
r [ʐ] Similar to the English z in azure, but with the tongue curled upwards, like a cross between English "r" and French "j". In Cyrillised Chinese the sound is rendered with the letter "ж".
z [ts] unaspirated c (something between suds and cats)
c [tsʰ] like ts in bats, but strongly aspirated
s [s] as in sun
w [w] as in water.*
y [j] as in yes.*
[.] new syllable*
* Note on w, y, and the apostrophe

Y and w are equivalent to the semivowel medials i, u, and ü (see below). They are spelled differently when there is no initial consonant in order to mark a new syllable: fanguan is fan-guan, while fangwan is fang-wan (and equivalent to *fang-uan). With this convention, an apostrophe only needs to be used to mark an initial a, e, or o: Xi'an (two syllables: [ɕ]) vs. xian (one syllable: [ɕi̯ɛn]). In addition, y and w are added to fully vocalic i, u, and ü when these occur without an initial consonant, so that they are written yi, wu, and yu. Some Mandarin speakers do pronounce a [j] or [w] sound at the beginning of such words—that is, yi [i] or [ji], wu [u] or [wu], yu [y] or [ɥy],—so this is an intuitive convention. See below for a few finals which are abbreviated after a consonant plus w/u or y/i medial: wen → C+un, wei → C+ui, weng → C+ong, and you → C+iu.

[edit] Pronunciation of finals

The following is an exhaustive list of all finals in Standard Mandarin. Those ending with a final -r are listed at the end.

To find a given final:

  1. Remove the initial consonant. Zh, ch, and sh count as initial consonants.
  2. Change initial w to u and initial y to i. For weng, wei, you, look under ong, ui, iu.
  3. For u after j, q, x, or y, look under ü.
Pinyin IPA Form with zero initial Explanation
-i [z̩], [ʐ̩] n/a -i is a buzzed continuation of the consonant following z-, c-, s-, zh-, ch-, sh- or r-.

(In all other words, -i has the sound of bee; this is listed below.)

a [ɑ] a as in "father"
o [u̯ɔ] o starts with English "oo" and ends with a plain continental "o".
e [ɤ], [ə] e a back, unrounded vowel, which can be formed by first pronouncing a plain continental "o" (AuE and NZE law) and then spreading the lips without changing the position of the tongue. That same sound is also similar to English "duh", but not as open. Many unstressed syllables in Chinese use the schwa (idea), and this is also written as e.
ê [ɛ] (n/a) as in "bet". Only used in certain interjections.
ai [aɪ̯] ai like English "eye", but a bit lighter
ei [ei̯] ei as in "hey"
ao [ɑʊ̯] ao approximately as in "cow"; the a is much more audible than the o
ou [ou̯] ou as in "so"
an [an] an starts with plain continental "a" (AuE and NZE bud) and ends with "n"
en [ən] en as in "taken"
ang [ɑŋ] ang as in German Angst, including the English loan word angst (starts with the vowel sound in father and ends in the velar nasal; like song in American English)
eng [ɤŋ] eng like e above but with ng added to it at the back
ong [ʊŋ] weng starts with the vowel sound in book and ends with the velar nasal sound in sing
er [ɑɻ] er like English "are" (exists only on its own, or as the last part of a final in combination with others - see bottom of this list)
Finals beginning with i- (y-)
i [i] yi like English bee.
ia [i̯ɑ] ya as i + a; like English "yard"
io [i̯ɔ] yo as i + plain continental "o". Only used in certain interjections.
ie [i̯ɛ] ye as i + ê; but is very short; e (pronounced like ê) is pronounced longer and carries the main stress (similar to the initial sound ye in yet)
iao [iɑʊ] yao as i + ao
iu [i̯ou̯] you as i + ou
ian [i̯ɛn] yan as i + ê + n; like English yen
in [in] yin as i + n
iang [i̯ɑŋ] yang as i + ang
ing [iŋ] ying as i but with ng added to it at the back
iong [i̯ʊŋ] yong as yu + ong
Finals beginning with u- (w-)
u [u] wu like English "oo"; pronounced as ü [y] after j, q, x and y
ua [u̯a] wa as u + a
uo [u̯ɔ] wo as u + o; the o is pronounced shorter and lighter than in the o final
uai [u̯aɪ̯] wai as u + ai
ui [u̯ei̯] wei as u + ei; here, the i is pronounced like ei
uan [u̯an] wan as u + an; pronounced as üan [yɛn] after j, q, x and y
un [u̯ən] wen as u + en; like the on in the English won; pronounced as ün [yn] after j, q, x and y
uang [u̯ɑŋ] wang as u + ang; like the ang in English angst or anger
ong [u̯ɤŋ] weng as u + eng
Finals beginning with ü- (yu-)
u, ü [y] yu as in German "üben" or French "lune" (To get this sound, say "ee" with rounded lips)
ue, üe [y̯ɛ] yue as ü + ê; the ü is short and light
uan [y̯ɛn] yuan as ü + ê+ n;
un, ün [yn] yun as ü + n;
Finals that are a combination of finals above + r final
ar [ɑɻ] like ar in American English "art"
er [ɤɻ] as e + r; not to be confused with er final on its own- this form only exists with an initial character before it
or [u̯ɔɻ] as o + r
air [ɑɻ] as ar
eir [əɻ] as schwa + r
aor [ɑ̯ʊɻ] as ao + r
our [ou̯ɻ] as ou + r
anr [ɑɻ] as ar
enr [əɻ] as schwa + r
angr [ɑ̃ɻ] as ang + r, with ng removed and the vowel nasalized
engr [ɤ̃ɻ] as eng + r, with ng removed and the vowel nasalized
ongr [ʊ̃ɻ] as ong + r, with ng removed and the vowel nasalized
ir [i̯əɻ] as i + schwa + r
ir [əɻ] after "c", "ch", "r", "s", "sh", "z", "zh": as schwa + r.
iar [i̯ɑɻ] as i + ar
ier [i̯ɛɻ] as ie + r
iaor [i̯ɑʊ̯ɻ] as iao + r
iur [i̯ou̯ɻ] as iou + r
ianr [i̯ɑɻ] as i + ar
inr [i̯əɻ] as ir
iangr [i̯ɑ̃ɻ] as i + angr
ingr [i̯ɤ̃ɻ] as i + engr
iongr [y̯ʊ̃ɻ] as i + ongr
ur [uɻ] as u + r
uar [u̯ɑɻ] as u + ar
uor [u̯ɔɻ] as uo + r
uair [u̯ɑɻ] as u + ar
uir [u̯əɻ] as u + schwa + r
uanr [u̯ɑɻ] as u + ar
unr [u̯əɻ] as u + schwa + r
uangr [u̯ɑ̃ɻ] as u + angr
ür [y̯əɻ] as ü + schwa + r
üer [y̯ɛɻ] as ue + r
üanr [y̯ɑɻ] as ü + ar
ünr [y̯əɻ] as ü + schwa + r

[edit] Orthography

[edit] Letters

Pinyin differs from other romanizations in several aspects, such as the following:

  • Syllables starting with u are written as w in place of u (e.g. ueng is written as weng). Standalone u is written as wu.
  • Syllables starting with i are written as y in place of i (e.g. iou is written as you). Standalone i is written as yi.
  • Syllables starting with ü are written as yu in place of ü (e.g. üe is written as yue).
  • ü is written as u when there is no ambiguity (such as ju, qu, and xu), but written as ü when there are corresponding u syllables (such as and ). In such situations where there are corresponding u syllables, it is often replaced with v on a computer, making it easier to type on a standard keyboard.
  • When preceded by a consonant, iou, uei, and uen are simplified as iu, ui, and un (which do not represent the actual pronunciation).
  • As in zhuyin, what are actually pronounced as buo, puo, muo, and fuo are given a separate representation: bo, po, mo, and fo.
  • The apostrophe (') is often used before a, o, and e to separate syllables in a word where ambiguity could arise, especially when omitting tone marks, e.g., pi'ao (simplified Chinese: 皮袄; traditional Chinese: 皮襖) vs. piao (票), and Xi'an (西安) vs. xian (先).
  • Eh alone is written as ê; elsewhere as e. Schwa is always written as e.
  • zh, ch, and sh can be abbreviated as , ĉ, and ŝ (z, c, s with a circumflex). However, the shorthands are rarely used due to difficulty of entering them on computers.
  • ng has the uncommon shorthand of ŋ.
  • The letter v is unused (except in spelling foreign languages, languages of minority nationalities, and some dialects), despite a conscious effort to distribute letters more evenly than in Western languages. However, sometimes, for ease of typing into a computer, the v is used to replace a ü.

Most of the above are used to avoid ambiguity when writing words of more than one syllable in pinyin. For example uenian is written as wenyan because it is not clear which syllables make up uenian; uen-ian, uen-i-an and u-en-i-an are all possible combinations whereas wenyan is unambiguous because we, nya, etc. do not exist in pinyin. See the pinyin table article for a summary of possible pinyin syllables (not including tones).

[edit] Capitalization and word formation

Many writers are not yet aware of the rules for dividing text into words by spaces, and either put a space after each syllable, or run all words together. The manufacturer of these blankets put unnecessary spaces into 'Bishikaike' (the correct pinyin for 比什凯克, 'Bishkek') - but wrote the English text on top with no spaces at all.

Although Chinese characters represent single syllables, Mandarin Chinese is a polysyllabic language. Spacing in pinyin is based on whole words, not single syllables. However, there are often ambiguities in partitioning a word. Orthographic rules were put into effect in 1988 by the National Educational Commission (国家教育委员会, pinyin: Guójiā Jiàoyù Wěiyuánhuì ) and the National Language Commission (国家语言文字工作委员会, pinyin: Guójiā Yǔyán Wénzì Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì).

  1. General
    1. Single meaning: Words with a single meaning, which are usually set up of two characters (sometimes one, seldom three), are written together and not capitalized: rén (Chinese: , person); péngyou (Chinese: 朋友, friend), qiǎokèlì (Chinese: 巧克力, chocolate)
    2. Combined meaning (2 characters): Same goes for words combined of two words to one meaning: hǎifēng (simplified Chinese: 海风; traditional Chinese: 海風, sea breeze); wèndá (simplified Chinese: 问答; traditional Chinese: 問答, Q&A), quánguó (simplified Chinese: 全国; traditional Chinese: 全國, 'pan-national')
    3. Combined meaning (4 or more characters): Words with four or more characters having one meaning are split up with their original meaning if possible: wúfèng gāngguǎn (simplified Chinese: 无缝钢管; traditional Chinese: 無縫鋼管, seamless steel-tube); huánjìng bǎohù guīhuà (simplified Chinese: 环境保护规划; traditional Chinese: 環境保護規劃, environmental protection planning)
  2. Duplicated words
    1. AA: Duplicated characters (AA) are written together: rénrén (Chinese: 人人, everybody), kànkàn (Chinese: 看看, to have a look), niánnián (Chinese: 年年, every year)
    2. ABAB: two characters duplicated (ABAB) are written separated: yánjiū yánjiū (Chinese: 研究研究, to study, to research), xuěbái xuěbái (Chinese: 雪白雪白, snow-white)
    3. AABB: A hyphen is used with the schema AABB: láilái-wǎngwǎng (simplified Chinese: 来来往往; traditional Chinese: 來來往往, go back and forth), qiānqiān-wànwàn (simplified Chinese: 千千万万; traditional Chinese: 千千萬萬, numerous)
  3. Nouns and names (míngcí): Nouns are written in one: zhuōzi (Chinese: , table), mùtou (simplified Chinese: 木头; traditional Chinese: 木頭, wood)
    1. Even if accompanied by a prefix and suffix: fùbùzhǎng (simplified Chinese: 副部长; traditional Chinese: 副部長, vice minister), chéngwùyuán (simplified Chinese: 乘务员; traditional Chinese: 乘務員, conductor), háizimen (simplified Chinese: 孩子们; traditional Chinese: 孩子們, children)
    2. Words of position are separated: mén wài (outdoor), hé li (in the river), huǒchē shàngmian (on the train), Huáng Hé yǐnán (south of the Yellow River)
      1. Exceptions are words traditionally connected: tiānshang (in the sky), dìxia (on the ground), kōngzhōng (in the air), hǎiwài (overseas)
    3. Surnames are separated from the given name: Lǐ Huá, Zhāng Sān. If the given name consists of two syllables, it should be written as one: Wáng Jiàngguó.
    4. Titles following the name are separated and are not capitalized: Wáng bùzhǎng (minister Wang), Lǐ xiānsheng (Mr. Li), Tián zhǔrèn (director Tian), Zhào tóngzhì (comrade Zhao).
    5. The forms of addressing people with Lǎo, Xiǎo, and A are capitalized: Xiǎo Liú ([young] Ms. Liu), Dà Lǐ ([great] Mr. Li), A Sān (Ah San), Lǎo Qián ([senior] Mr. Qian), Lǎo Wú ([senior] Ms. Wu)
      1. Exceptions are: Kǒngzǐ (Master Confucius), Bāogōng (Judge Bao), Xīshī (a historical person), Mèngchángjūn (a historical person)
    6. Geographical names of China: Běijīng Shì (City of Beijing), Héběi Shěng (Province of Hebei), Yālù Jiāng (Yalu River), Tài Shān (Mt. Taishan), Dòngtíng Hú (Lake Donting), Táiwān Hǎixiá (Taiwan strait)
    7. Non-Chinese names translated back from Chinese will be written by their original writing: Marx, Einstein, London, Tokyo
  4. Verbs (dòngcí): Verbs and their suffixes (-zhe, -le and -guo) are written as one: kànzhe/kànle/kànguo (to see/saw/seen), jìngxíngzhe (to implement). Le as it appears in the end of a sentence is separated though: Huǒchē dào le (The train [has] arrived).
    1. Verbs and their objects are separated: kàn xìn (read a letter), chī yú (eat fish), kāi wánxiào (to be kidding).
    2. If verbs and their complements are each monosyllabic, they are written together, if not, separated: gǎohuài ("to make broken"), dǎsǐ (hit to death), huàwéi ("to become damp"), zhěnglǐ hǎo (to straighten out), gǎixiě wéi (rewrite a screenplay)
  5. Adjectives (xíngróngcí): A monosyllabic adjective and its reduplication are written as one: mēngmēngliàng (dim), liàngtāngtāng (shining bright)
    1. Complements of size or degree (as xiē, yīxiē, diǎnr, yīdiǎnr) are written separated: dà xiē (a little bigger), kuài yīdiānr (a bit faster)
  6. Pronouns (dàicí)
    1. The plural suffix -men directly follows up: wǒmen (we), tāmen (they)
    2. The demonstrative pronoun zhè (this), nà (that) and the question pronoun nǎ (which) are separated: zhè rén (this person), nà cì huìyì (that meeting), nǎ zhāng bàozhǐ (which newspaper)
      1. Exceptions are: nàli (there), zhèbian (over here), zhège (this piece), zhème (so), zhèmeyàng (that way)... and similar ones.
  7. Numerals and measure words (shùcí hé liàngcí)
    1. Words like /měi (every, each), mǒu (any), běn (that), gāi (that), (mine, our), are separated from the measure words following them: gè guó (every nation), gè gè (everyone), měi nián (every year), mǒu gōngchǎng (a certain factory), wǒ xiào (our school).

[edit] Tones

Relative pitch changes of the four tones

The pinyin system also uses diacritics to mark the four tones of Mandarin. The diacritic is placed over the letter that represents the syllable nucleus, unless that letter is missing (see below). Many books printed in China use a mix of fonts, with vowels and tone marks rendered in a different font than the surrounding text, tending to give such pinyin texts a typographically ungainly appearance. This style, most likely rooted in early technical limitations, has led many to believe that pinyin's rules call for this practice and also for the use of a Latin alpha ("ɑ") rather than the standard style of the letter ("a") found in most fonts. The official rules of Hanyu Pinyin, however, specify no such practice.

  1. The first tone (Flat or High Level Tone) is represented by a macron (ˉ) added to the pinyin vowel:

    ā (ɑ̄) ē ī ō ū ǖ Ā Ē Ī Ō Ū Ǖ
  2. The second tone (Rising or High-Rising Tone) is denoted by an acute accent (ˊ):

    á (ɑ́) é í ó ú ǘ Á É Í Ó Ú Ǘ
  3. The third tone (Falling-Rising or Low Tone) is marked by a caron/háček (ˇ). It is not the rounded breve (˘), though a breve is sometimes substituted due to font limitations.

    ǎ (ɑ̌) ě ǐ ǒ ǔ ǚ Ǎ Ě Ǐ Ǒ Ǔ Ǚ
  4. The fourth tone (Falling or High-Falling Tone) is represented by a grave accent (ˋ):

    à (ɑ̀) è ì ò ù ǜ À È Ì Ò Ù Ǜ
  5. The fifth tone (Neutral Tone) is represented by a normal vowel without any accent mark:

    a (ɑ) e i o u ü A E I O U Ü
(In some cases, this is also written with a dot before the syllable; for example, ·ma.)

These tone marks normally are only used in Mandarin textbooks or in foreign learning texts, but they are essential for correct pronunciation of Mandarin syllables, as exemplified by the following classic example of five characters whose pronunciations differ only in their tones:

Traditional characters:

() () () () (·ma)

Simplified characters:

() () () () (·ma)

The words are "mother", "hemp", "horse", "scold" and a question particle, respectively.

[edit] Numerals in place of tone marks

Before the advent of computers, many typewriter fonts did not contain vowels with macron or caron diacritics. Tones were thus represented by placing a tone number at the end of individual syllables. For example, tóng is written tong2. The number used for each tone is as the order listed above, except the neutral tone, which is either not numbered, or given the number 0 or 5, e.g. ma5 for 吗/嗎, an interrogative marker.

Tone Tone Mark Number added to end of syllable
in place of tone mark
Example using
tone mark
Example using
First macron ( ˉ ) 1 ma1 mɑ˥˥
Second acute accent ( ˊ ) 2 ma2 mɑ˧˥
Third caron ( ˇ ) 3 ma3 mɑ˨˩˦
Fourth grave accent ( ˋ ) 4 ma4 mɑ˥˩
"Neutral" No mark
or dot before syllable (·)
no number

[edit] Rules for placing the tone mark

Pinyin tone marks appear primarily above the nucleus of the syllable, for example as in kuài, where k is the initial, u the medial, a the nucleus, and i the coda. The exception is syllabic nasals like m, where the nucleus of the syllable is a consonant, the diacritic will be carried by a vowel.

When the nucleus is /ə/ (written e or o), and there is both a medial and a coda, the nucleus may be dropped from writing. When the coda is a consonant n or ng, the only vowel left is the medial i, u, or ü, and so this takes the diacritic. However, when the coda is a vowel, it is the coda rather than the medial which takes the diacritic. This occurs with syllables ending in -ui, from wei, and in -iu, from you (wèi → -uì; yòu → -iù). That is, finals have priority, as long as they are vowels: if not, the medial takes the diacritic.

An algorithm to find the correct vowel letter (when there is more than one) is as follows:[13]

  1. If there is an "a" or an "e", it will take the tone mark.
  2. If there is an "ou", then the "o" takes the tone mark.
  3. Otherwise, the second vowel takes the tone mark.

Worded differently,

  1. If there is an "a", "e", or "o", it will take the tone mark; in the case of "ao", the mark goes on the "a".
  2. Otherwise, the vowels are "-iu" or "-ui", in which case the second vowel takes the tone mark.

If the tone is written over an i, the dot above the i is omitted, as in yī.

[edit] The character "ü"

An trema is placed over the letter u when it occurs after the initials l and n in order to represent the sound [y]. This is necessary in order to distinguish the front high rounded vowel in (e.g. 驴/驢 donkey) from the back high rounded vowel in lu (e.g. 炉/爐 oven). Tonal markers are added on top of the trema, as in .

However, the ü is not used in other contexts where it represents a front high rounded vowel, namely after the letters j, q, x and y. For example, the sound of the word 鱼/魚 (fish) is transcribed in pinyin simply as , not as . This practice is opposed to Wade-Giles, which always uses ü, and Tongyong pinyin, which always uses yu. Whereas Wade-Giles needs to use the trema to distinguish between chü (pinyin ju) and chu (pinyin zhu), this ambiguity cannot arise with pinyin, so the more convenient form ju is used instead of . Genuine ambiguities only happen with nu/ and lu/, which are then distinguished by a trema (diacritic).

Many fonts or output methods do not support a trema for ü or cannot place tone marks on top of ü. Likewise, using ü in input methods is difficult because it is not present as a simple key on many keyboard layouts. For these reasons v is sometimes used instead by convention. Occasionally, uu (double u), u: (u followed by a colon) or U (capital u) is used in its place.

Although nüe written in nue, and lüe written in lue won't be confusing, nue or lue is not correct according the rules. You should use nüe and lüe. However, some Chinese input method (e.g. Microsoft Pinyin IME) both support nve/lve(here v is for ü) and nue/lue.

[edit] Comparison chart

Vowels a, e, o, i
IPA ɑ ɔ ɤ ɑʊ ɤʊ an ən ɑŋ ɤŋ ɑɻ ʊŋ i iɤʊ iɛn ɪn ɪŋ
Pinyin a o e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng er ong yi ye you yan yin ying
Tongyong Pinyin a o e ai ei ao ou an en ang eng er ong yi ye you yan yin ying
Wade-Giles a o o/ê ai ei ao ou an ên ang êng êrh ung i yeh yu yen yin ying
Zhuyin ㄨㄥ ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄣ ㄧㄥ
Vowels u, y
IPA u ueɪ uaɪ uan uən uʊn uɤŋ uʊŋ y yɛn yn iʊŋ
Pinyin wu wo wei wai wan wen weng yu yue yuan yun yong
Tongyong Pinyin wu wo wei wai wan wun wong yu yue yuan yun yong
Wade-Giles wu wo wei wai wan wên wêng yüeh yüan yün yung
Zhuyin ㄨㄛ ㄨㄟ ㄨㄞ ㄨㄢ ㄨㄣ ㄨㄥ ㄩㄝ ㄩㄢ ㄩㄣ ㄩㄥ

Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fəŋ fʊŋ tiou tuei ny ly kəɻ
Pinyin b p m feng diu dui t ger k he
Tongyong Pinyin b p m fong diou duei t nyu lyu ger k he
Wade-Giles p p' m fêng tiu tui t' kêrh k' ho
Zhuyin ㄈㄥ ㄉㄧㄡ ㄉㄨㄟ ㄋㄩ ㄌㄩ ㄍㄜㄦ ㄏㄜ
example 歌儿
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕiɛn tɕyʊŋ tɕʰɪn ɕyɛn ʈʂə ʈʂɚ ʈʂʰə ʈʂʰɚ ʂə ʂɚ ʐə ʐɚ tsə tsuɔ tsɨ tsʰə tsʰɨ
Pinyin jian jiong qin xuan zhe zhi che chi she shi re ri ze zuo zi ce ci se si
Tongyong Pinyin jian jyong cin syuan jhe jhih che chih she shih re rih ze zuo zih ce cih se sih
Wade-Giles chien chiung ch'in hsüan chê chih ch'ê ch'ih shê shih jih tsê tso tzŭ ts'ê tz'ŭ szŭ
Zhuyin ㄐㄧㄢ ㄐㄩㄥ ㄑㄧㄣ ㄒㄩㄢ ㄓㄜ ㄔㄜ ㄕㄜ ㄖㄜ ㄗㄜ ㄗㄨㄛ ㄘㄜ ㄙㄜ
IPA ma˥˥ ma˧˥ ma˨˩˦ ma˥˩ ma
Pinyin ma
Tongyong Pinyin ma
Wade-Giles ma1 ma2 ma3 ma4 ma0
Zhuyin ㄇㄚ ㄇㄚˊ ㄇㄚˇ ㄇㄚˋ ㄇㄚ・
example (traditional/simplfied) 媽/妈 麻/麻 馬/马 罵/骂 嗎/吗

[edit] Pinyin in the Republic of China

The Republic of China (located in Taiwan) adopted Tongyong pinyin, a modification of Hanyu pinyin, as the official romanization system on the national level between October 2002 and January 2009, when it switched to Hanyu pinyin. The romanization system in use became a political issue, much of it centered on issues of national identity, with proponents of Chinese reunification favoring Hanyu pinyin, the official romanization system used in the People's Republic of China as well as internationally, and proponents of Taiwanese independence favoring the use of the locally developed Tongyong pinyin.[citation needed]

The adoption of Tongyong pinyin was an administrative order that could be overruled by local governments. Some localities with governments controlled by the Kuomintang, most notably Taipei, Hsinchu, and Kinmen County, overrode the order and converted to Hanyu pinyin before the January 1, 2009 national-level switch,[4][5] though with a slightly different capitalization convention than mainland China. As a result, the use of romanization on signage in Taiwan was, and still is, inconsistent, with many places using Tongyong pinyin but some using Hanyu pinyin, and still others not yet having had the resources to replace older Wade-Giles or MPS2 signage. This has led to odd situations: for instance, in Taipei there were inconsistent romanizations shown in freeway directions: freeway signs, under the control of the central government, used Tongyong, while surface street signs, under the control of the city government, used, and still use, Hanyu Pinyin.[citation needed]

Primary education in Taiwan continues to teach pronunciation using zhuyin annotation. Although the ROC government has stated the desire to use romanization rather than zhuyin in education, the lack of agreement on which form of pinyin to use and the huge logistical challenge of teacher training has stalled these efforts.[citation needed]

[edit] Other languages

Pinyin-like systems have been devised for other variants of Chinese. Guangdong Romanization is a set of romanizations devised by the government of Guangdong province for Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka (Moiyen dialect), and Hainanese. All of these are designed to use Latin letters in a similar way to pinyin.

In addition, in accordance to the Regulation of Phonetic Transcription in Hanyu Pinyin Letters of Place Names in Minority Nationality Languages (少数民族语地名汉语拼音字母音译转写法) promulgated in 1976, place names in non-Chinese languages like Mongol, Uyghur, and Tibetan are also officially transcribed using pinyin. The pinyin letters (26 Roman letters, ü, ê) are used to approximate the non-Chinese language in question as closely as possible. This results in spellings that are different from both the customary spelling of the place name, and the pinyin spelling of the name in Chinese:

Customary Official (pinyin for local name) Chinese name Pinyin for Chinese name
Shigatse Xigazê 日喀则 Rìkāzé
Urumchi Ürümqi 乌鲁木齐 Wūlǔmùqí
Lhasa Lhasa 拉萨 Lāsà
Golmud Golmud 格尔木 Gé'ěrmù
See also: Tibetan pinyin

[edit] Comparison with other orthographies

Pinyin is now used by foreign students learning Chinese as a second language.

Pinyin assigns some Roman letters phonological values which are quite different from that of most languages.

Pinyin is purely a representation of the sounds of Mandarin, therefore it lacks the semantic cues that Chinese characters can provide. It is also unsuitable for transcribing some Chinese spoken languages other than Mandarin.

Simple computer systems, able only to display only 7-bit ASCII text (essentially the 26 Latin letters, 10 digits and punctuation marks), long provided a convincing argument in favor of pinyin over hanzi. Today, however, most computer systems are able to display characters from Chinese and many other writing systems as well, and have them entered with a Latin keyboard using an input method editor. Alternatively, some PDAs, tablet PCs and digitizing tablets allow users to input characters directly by writing with a stylus.

[edit] Entering toned pinyin on a computer

[edit] Windows

Many Chinese IMEs allow a pinyin toggle in addition to the simplified–traditional character toggle. The user can then type using pinyin with tone marks using the alphanumeric keys on a standard keyboard; the popular Ziguang Pinyin IME is one such example. Pinyinput is a Windows-based IME that allows you to type toned pinyin with ease.[citation needed] Because it works at the system level, it will allow you to type pinyin with tones in any Windows program just as easily as you would type Chinese (in fact even easier, because you don't need to select the correct character). Activate the IME then start typing pinyin. Type a number from 1-4 after a pinyin syllable, and the corresponding tone will automatically be placed on the correct vowel of that syllable.

[edit] Mac OS X

Activate the "US Extended" keyboard (found in the "Input Menu" tab of the "International' section of the System Preferences) and then do:

  • Option-a and then <vowel> to create the first tones: ā, ē, ī, ō, ū
  • Option-e and then <vowel> to create the second tones: á, é, í, ó, ú
  • Option-v and then <vowel> to create the third tone: ǎ, ě, ǐ, ǒ, ǔ
  • Option-` and then <vowel> to create the fourth tone: à, è, ì, ò, ù
  • u and then Shift-Option-u and then Shift-Option-<a, e, v or `> gives ǖ, ǘ, ǚ or ǜ.
  • v may be entered as a <vowel> to produce a ü. For instance, Option-e v produces ǘ. Option-u u produces a ü without tone marks.

[edit] Further reading

  • Gao, J. K. (2005). Pinyin shorthand: a bilingual handbook = [Pinyin su ji fa]. Dallas, TX: Jack Sun. ISBN 1599712512
  • Kimball, R. L. (1988). Quick reference Chinese: a practical guide to Mandarin for beginners and travelers in English, Pinyin romanization, and Chinese characters. San Francisco, CA: China Books & Periodicals. ISBN 0835120368
  • Wu, C.-j. (1979). The Pinyin Chinese-English dictionary. Hong Kong: Commercial Press. ISBN 0471275573

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Yin Binyong 尹斌庸 and Mary Felley (1990). Chinese Romanization. Pronunciation and Orthography (Hanyu pinyin he zhengcifa 汉语拼音和正词法). Beijing: Sinolingua. ISBN 7-80052-148-6 / ISBN 0-8351-1930-0.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Harbaugh, Richard (1998). "中文字普 (Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary)". Retrieved on 2008-04-27. 
  2. ^ "Pinyin celebrates 50th birthday". Xinhua News Agency. 2008-02-11. Retrieved on 2008-09-20. 
  3. ^ "ISO 7098:1982 - Documentation -- Romanization of Chinese". Retrieved on 2009-03-01. 
  4. ^ a b "Hanyu Pinyin to be standard system in 2009". Taipei Times. 2008-09-18. Retrieved on 2008-09-20. 
  5. ^ a b "Gov't to improve English-friendly environment". The China Post. 2008-09-18. Retrieved on 2008-09-20. 
  6. ^ Zou Minglang and Sun Hongkai, Language Policy In The People's Republic Of China: Theory And Practice Since 1949, 2004, p. 23
  7. ^ Branigan, Tania (2008-02-21). "Sound Principles". The Guardian. Retrieved on 2008-09-20. 
  8. ^ Branigan, Tania (2008-02-21). "Sound Principles". The Guardian. Retrieved on 2008-09-20.  indicates, "It soon became clear that his economic expertise was not required or appreciated. But in 1955 the government asked him to put his hobby - languages - to use by overseeing reforms. It believed only an explosion in literacy could allow China to develop."
  9. ^ "Hanyu Pinyin system turns 50". Straits Times. 2008-02-11. Retrieved on 2008-09-20. 
  10. ^ Lin Mei-chun (2000-10-08). "Official challenges Romanization". Taipei Times. 
  11. ^ Ao, Benjamin (1997-12-01). "History and Prospect of Chinese Romanization". Chinese Librarianship: an International Electronic Journal (Internet Chinese Librarians Club) (4). ISSN 1089-4667. Retrieved on 2008-09-20. 
  12. ^ One exception is the city Harbin (simplified Chinese: 哈尔滨; traditional Chinese: 哈爾濱), which is from the Manchu language.
  13. ^ Swofford, Mark. "Where do the tone marks go?". Retrieved on 2008-09-20. 

[edit] External links

[edit] Pinyin courses

[edit] Auto-converters

[edit] Other

Preceded by
Gwoyeu Romatzyh
Official romanization adopted
by the People's Republic of China

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Tongyong Pinyin
Official romanization adopted
by the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Succeeded by
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