What is romanized pinyin

Romanization of Chinese - Romanization of Chinese

Writing Chinese in Latin scripts
"National language" (國語, Guóyǔ ) in traditional and simplified Chinese characters, followed by romanizations by Hanyu Pinyin, Gwoyeu Romatzyh, Wade-Giles and Yale

The Romanization of Chinese is the use of the Latin alphabet to transliterate Chinese. Chinese uses logographic script and its characters do not directly represent phonemes. There have been many systems that used Roman characters to represent Chinese throughout history. The linguist Daniel Kane recalls: "It used to be said that sinologists had to be like musicians who could compose in one key and easily transcribe into other keys." The international standard for putonghua that has dominated since around 1982 is Hanyu Pinyin, which was invented in the 1950s by a group of Chinese linguists, including Zhou Youguang. Other well-known systems are Wade-Giles (Mandarin) and Yale Romanization (Mandarin and Cantonese).

There are many uses for the Chinese Romanization. In its broadest sense, it is used to provide a useful way to read and recognize Chinese for foreigners who are unable to recognize Chinese script. It can also be helpful in clarifying pronunciation among Chinese speakers who speak incomprehensible Chinese varieties. Romanization makes it easier to enter characters on standard keyboards such as QWERTY. Chinese dictionaries have complex and competing rules for sorting characters, and romanization systems simplify the problem by listing characters alphabetically in their Latin form.


The Indian Sanskrit grammarians who went to China two thousand years ago to work on the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the transcription of Buddhist terms into Chinese discovered the "opening tone", "ending tone" and "suprasegmental tone" structure of spoken Chinese Syllables. This understanding is reflected in the exact Fanqie system and is the core principle of all modern systems. While the Fanqie system was ideal for displaying the conventional pronunciation of single, isolated characters in written classical Chinese literature, it was not practical for the pronunciation of essentially polysyllabic, colloquial Chinese dialects such as Mandarin.

In addition to the syllable structure, it is also necessary to indicate tones in the Chinese Romanization. Tones distinguish the definition of all morphemes in Chinese, and the definition of a word is often ambiguous when there are no tones. Certain systems, such as Wade-Giles, indicate the tone with a number following the syllable: ma 1 , ma 2 , ma 3 , ma 4 . Others, like Pinyin, set the tone with diacritics: , , , . However, the Gwoyeu Romatzyh (National Romanization) system bypasses the problem of introducing Non-letters Symbols by placing the letters within the syllable be changed as in mha, ma, maa, mah each of which contains the same vowel but a different sound.



  • Teaching spoken and written Chinese to foreigners.
  • To make the actual pronunciation conventions of spoken Chinese understandable to non-Chinese speaking students, especially those who are inexperienced with an audio language.
  • Making the syntactic structure of Chinese understandable to those who are only familiar with Latin grammar.
  • Transcribing the citation pronunciation of certain Chinese characters according to the pronunciation conventions of a certain European language, to enable this Chinese pronunciation to be inserted into a Western text.
  • Enable instant "slang Chinese" communication between Chinese and non-Chinese speakers through a phrasebook.


  • Identifying the specific pronunciation of a character in a particular context (e.g. x as xíng (walking; behavior, behavior) or háng (loading)).
  • Recitation of Chinese text in a Chinese variety by educated speakers of another language incomprehensible to both sides, e.g. B. Mandarin and Cantonese.
  • Learn classical or modern Chinese.
  • Use with a standard QWERTY keyboard.
  • Replacing Chinese characters to provide functional skills to illiterate people who speak Chinese.
  • Indexing books, sorting dictionary entries, and cataloging in general.
On posters and slogans in and around Chinese schools, each character is often commented on with its standard Chinese reading in pinyin

Non-Chinese systems

The Wade, Wade-Giles and Post systems still appear in European literature, but generally only within a passage cited from an earlier work. Most texts in the European language have been using the Chinese Hanyu Pinyin system (usually without a tone) since 1979, as adopted by the People's Republic of China.

Mission systems

A European map from the 17th century with the typical transcription of Chinese place names. Note the systematic use of x, where pinyin sh has , si, where pinyin xi has , and qu (stylized qv ) where pinyin gu used

The first consistent system for transcribing Chinese words in the Latin alphabet was probably designed in 1583-88 by Matteo Ricci and Michele Ruggieri for their Portuguese-Chinese dictionary - the first ever European-Chinese dictionary. Unfortunately, the manuscript was moved to the Jesuit archives in Rome and was not rediscovered until 1934. The dictionary was finally published in 2001. In the winter of 1598 Ricci, with the help of his Jesuit colleague Lazzaro Cattaneo (1560-1640)), also put together a Sino-Portuguese dictionary in which tones of the Romanized Chinese syllables were marked with diacritical marks. This work has also been lost but has not been rediscovered.

However, Cattaneo's system with its consideration of tones was not lost. It was used, for example, by Michał Boym and his two Chinese assistants in the first publication of the original and romanized text of the Nestorian stele, which is published in China Illustrata (1667) appeared - an encyclopedic work compiled by Athanasius Kircher.

1626 developed the Jesuit missionary Nicolas Trigault in his Xiru Ermu Zi a Romanization system (simplified Chinese: Chinese 儒 耳目 资; traditional Chinese: 西 儒 耳目 資; pinyin: Xīrú ěrmù zī; literally: Help for the eyes and ears of western writers ).

In his Portuguese language Vocabulario da lingoa mandarina by In 1670 the Dominican missionary Francisco Varo expanded the Trigault system. His Spanish language Vocabulario de la Lengua Mandarina was published in 1682, and its published in 1703 Arte de la Lengua Mandarina is the earliest known published Chinese grammar.

Later, through the many comprehensive linguistic systems, Protestants were made such as use for Robert Morrison's dictionary and the Legge romanization. In their missionary activities they had contact with many languages ​​in Southeast Asia and created systems that could be used consistently in all of the languages ​​they dealt with.


The first system to be widely accepted was the (1859) system of British diplomat Thomas Wade, which was revised by Herbert Giles and improved into the (1892) Wade-Giles system. Aside from correcting a number of ambiguities and inconsistencies within the Wade system, the innovation of the Wade-Giles system was that it also displayed sounds.

The Wade-Giles system used the spiritus asper, diacritical marks and superscript digits (e.g. Ch῾üeh 4 ).

French EFEO system

Developed in 1902 by Séraphin Couvreur of the École française d'Extrême-Orient, the system was used in most of the French-speaking world to transliterate Chinese until the mid-20th century, when it was gradually replaced by Hanyu Pinyin.

Post romance

The postal romanization standardized in 1906 combined traditional spellings, local dialect and "Nanking syllabary". The nanking syllable is one of several romanization systems featured in a popular Chinese-English dictionary by Herbert Giles. It is based on the pronunciation of Nanjing. The French administered the post at the time. The system is similar to the traditional romanizations used in France. Many of these traditional spellings were created by French missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Nanjing dialect was the standard in China. The postal romanization was only used for place names.

Yale system

The Yale Romanization System was created at Yale University during World War II to facilitate communication between American military personnel and their Chinese counterparts. It uses a more regular spelling of Mandarin phonemes than other systems of its time.

This system was used for a long time as it was used for phrasebooks and part of the Yale system for teaching Chinese. The Yale system taught Mandarin using spoken, slang Chinese patterns. The Mandarin Yale system has since been superseded by the Chinese Hanyu Pinyin system.

Chinese systems

Qieyin Xinzi

The first modern indigenous Chinese romanization system, the Qieyin Xinzi (New 新 字 "New Phonetic Alphabet"), was developed in 1892 by Lu Zhuangzhang (1854–1928). It was used to write the sounds of the Xiamen dialect of Southern Min. Some people have invented other phoneme systems as well.

Gwoyeu Romatzyh

The four tones of Guo, as written in characters and Gwoyeu Romatzyh. Notice the spelling differences highlighted in red for each tone.

In 1923 the Kuomintang Ministry of Education set up a national commission for the unification of languages, which in turn formed an eleven-member Romanization unit. The political circumstances of the time prevented a positive result in the formation of this unit.

A new voluntary subcommittee was formed independently of a group of five scholars who strongly advocated Romanization. The committee, which met twenty-two times over a period of twelve months (1925–1926), consisted of Zhao Yuanren, Lin Yutang, Qian Xuantong, Li Jinxi (黎锦熙), and a Wang Yi. They developed the Gwoyeu Romatzyh System, which was proclaimed on September 26, 1928. The most striking aspect of this new system was that it did not rely on characters or numbers, but rather the tonal variations of the "root syllable" indicated by a systematic variation within the spelling of the syllable itself. The entire system can be written with a standard QWERTY keyboard become.

... the call to abolish [the written] characters in favor of a Romanized alphabet reached a climax around 1923. Since nearly all of the [Gwoyeu Romatzyh] designers were ardent proponents of this radical view, it is only natural that this should be put aside. Your scheme was designed to perform all of the functions expected, and in due course, of a gullible writing system Can replace [written Chinese] characters.

Despite the fact that it was created to replace Chinese characters and that it was constructed by linguists, Gwoyeu Romatzyh has never been used extensively for any purpose other than to provide the pronunciation of certain Chinese characters in dictionaries. The complexity of its sound system was so great that it never became popular.

Latinxua Sinwenz

Work on building the Latinxua Sinwenz system began in Moscow as early as 1928 when the Soviet Scientific Research Institute for China was trying to create a means by which the large Chinese population in the Far East of the Soviet Union could read and write their continuing education.

From the beginning it was intended that the once established Latinxua-Sinwenz system would replace the Chinese characters. It was decided to use the Latin alphabet as it was believed to serve its purpose better than the Cyrillic alphabet. Unlike Gwoyeu Romatzyh with its complex method of displaying tones, the Latinxua Sinwenz system does not display tones at all, and since it is not mandarin specific, it can be used for other Chinese varieties.

The Moscow-based Chinese scholar Qu Qiubai (1899–1935) and the Russian linguist VS Kolokolov (1896–1979) developed a prototype of a Romanization system in 1929.

In 1931, coordinated efforts between the Soviet sinologists BM Alekseev, AA Dragunov and AG Shrprintsin and the Moscow-based Chinese scholars Qu Qiubai, Wu Yuzhang, Lin Boqu (林伯渠), Xiao San, Wang Xiangbao and Xu Teli founded the Latinxua Sinwenz System. The system was supported by a number of Chinese intellectuals such as Guo Moruo and Lu Xun, and trials were conducted among 100,000 Chinese migrant workers for about four years and later in 1940-1942, in the communist-controlled Shaanxi - Gansu - Ningxia Border Region of China. In November 1949, the railways in northeast China adopted the Latinxua-Sinwenz system for all of their telecommunications.

For a while the system was instrumental in promoting literacy in northern China, and Latinxua Sinwenz had more than 300 publications with a total of half a million issues. However, use of the system was later discontinued as the proposed goal of replacing logographic Chinese characters altogether was viewed as too radical:

In 1944, the Latinization movement in the communist-controlled areas [of China] was officially restricted on the pretext that there were not enough trained cadres to teach the system. It is more likely that as the communists were preparing to take power in a much larger area, they were concerned about the rhetoric surrounding the Latinization movement. In order to gain the greatest possible support from the population, they withdrew the support of a movement that profoundly offended many followers of the traditional writing system.

Hanyu Pinyin

In October 1949, the Association for Reforming the Chinese Writing Language was founded. Wu Yuzhang (one of the creators of Latinxua Sinwenz) was appointed chairman. All members of its original governing body belonged to either the Latinxua Sinwenz Movement (Ni Haishu (倪海曙), Lin Handa (林汉达) etc.) or the Gwoyeu Romatzyh Movement (Li Jinxi (黎锦熙), Luo Changpei etc. An.). For the most part, they were also well trained linguists. Her first instruction (1949–1952) was to consider "the phonetic project for adopting the Latin alphabet" as the "main subject of her research"; The linguist Zhou Youguang was held responsible for this branch of the committee.

In a January 10, 1958 speech, Zhou Enlai stated that the committee had tried for three years to create a non-Latin-Chinese phonetic alphabet (they had also tried to adapt Zhuyin Fuhao) but "an unsatisfactory result had been obtained could "and" the Latin alphabet was then adopted ". He also stated emphatically:

In the future, we will adopt the Latin alphabet for the Chinese phonetic alphabet. Since it is widely used in scientific and technological fields and constantly used in daily use, it will be easily remembered. The introduction of such an alphabet will therefore greatly facilitate the popularization of the common language [i.e. Putonghua (Standard Chinese)].

The development of the Hanyu Pinyin system was a complex process that involved making decisions on many difficult topics, such as:

  • Should the pronunciation of Hanyu Pinyin be based on that of Beijing?
  • Would Hanyu Pinyin replace the Chinese characters entirely, or would it simply provide a guide to pronunciation?
  • Should the traditional Chinese writing system be simplified?
  • Should Hanyu Pinyin use the Latin alphabet?
  • Should Hanyu Pinyin display tones in all cases (as with Gwoyeu Romatzyh)?
  • Should Hanyu Pinyin be mandarin-specific or adaptable to other dialects and other Chinese varieties?
  • Should Hanyu Pinyin just be created to facilitate the spread of Putonghua across China?

Despite the fact that the "Draft Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet" published in People's China on March 16, 1956, contained certain unusual and peculiar features, the Language Reform Research Committee soon reverted to and introduced the Latin alphabet the following reasons:

  • The Latin alphabet is widely used by scientists regardless of their native language, and technical terms are often written in Latin.
  • The Latin alphabet is simple to write and easy to read. It has been used around the world for centuries. It is easily adaptable to the task of recording Chinese pronunciation.
  • While using the Cyrillic alphabet would strengthen links with the USSR, the Latin alphabet is familiar to most Russian students, and its use would strengthen links between China and many of its Southeast Asian neighbors who are already familiar with the Latin alphabet.
  • In response to Mao Zedong's remark that "cultural patriotism" should be a "weighty factor" in choosing an alphabet: despite the fact that the Latin alphabet is "foreign", it will serve as a powerful tool for economic and industrial expansion ; and, moreover, the fact that two of the most patriotic Chinese, Qu Qiubai and Lu Xun, were such strong proponents of the Latin alphabet, shows that the choice does not indicate a lack of patriotism.
  • Based on the fact that the British, French, Germans, Spanish, Poles and Czechoslovaks modified the Latin alphabet for their own use, and because the Latin alphabet is derived from the Greek alphabet, which in turn came from the Phoenicians and Egyptians using the Latin alphabet just as a shame as the use of Arabic numerals and conventional mathematical symbols, regardless of their place of origin.

The movement for language reform came to a standstill during the Cultural Revolution and nothing was published on language reform or linguistics from 1966 to 1972. The pinyin subtitle that had first appeared on the masthead People's newspaper Newspaper and that Red flag Journal in 1958 did not appear at all between July 1966 and January 1977.

In its final form, Hanyu Pinyin:

  • was used to show pronunciation only
  • was based solely on the pronunciation of the Beijing dialect
  • included clay markings
  • embodied the traditional model "initial tone", "final tone" and "suprasegmental tone"
  • was written in the Latin alphabet

Hanyu Pinyin evolved from Mao's 1951 Directive to its final form through the promulgation of a draft version by the State Council on November 1, 1957, which was approved by the State Council in September 1978 and adopted by the International Organization for Standardization in 1982 as the standard for the transcription of Chinese.

John DeFrancis has described Mao Zedong's belief that pinyin would eventually replace Chinese characters, but it did not, and in fact such a plan had already ceased along with the end of the Latinxua Sinwenz movement.

Variations in pronunciation

"The Chinese and Japanese Archives" stated that Romanization would standardize the various different pronunciations that Chinese often had for a word, which was the same for all mostly unwritten languages. Contributor Rev. James Summers wrote in 1863:

"Those who know something about the rude and unwritten languages ​​of other parts of the world will have no trouble imagining the state of the spoken dialects of China. Various shades of pronunciation are common as they result from the analytical process a Chinese has none Idea of ​​the number or character of the noises he utters when he says mau-ping. In fact, one man will call it maw (mor) -bing and another mo-piang without the first man noticing the difference By the people themselves, these changes are seen as simple variations with no consequence. And if we look at the English of Chaucer's or Wickliffe's time, or the French of Marco Polo's age, we will find a similar looseness and inattention in correcting spelling, because these languages ​​were written by few and when the spelling was unclear rn yourself. Any poor man can now learn to read and write his own language in less than a month, and with a little pain, he can get it right with practice. The result is that many who without this intellectual lever could never have gone beyond the level of serf and slave attain a higher level of comfort and happiness. The poor can read the gospel and hear it preached, and the metallurgical library becomes a never-failing treasury of profit for the working class. "

See also





  • Anon, Reform of the written Chinese language , Foreign Languages ​​Press, (Beijing), 1958.
  • Chao, YR, A grammar of spoken Chinese , University of California Press, (Berkeley), 1968.
  • Chappell, H., "The Romanization Debate," Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs , No. 4, (July 1980), pp. 105-118.
  • Chen, P., "Phonetization of Chinese", pp. 164-190 in Chen, P., Modern Chinese: History and Sociolinguistics , Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1999.
  • DeFrancis, J., Nationalism and Language Reform in China , Princeton University Press, (Princeton), 1950.
  • Hsia, T., China's language reforms , Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, (New Haven), 1956.
  • Ladefoged, Peter; & Maddieson, Ian. (1996). The sounds of world languages . Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-19814-8 (hbk); ISBN 0-631-19815-6 (pbk).
  • Ladefoged, Peter; & Wu, Zhongji. (1984). Places of Articulation: An Examination of Beijing's Friction Points and Affricates. Journal of Phonetics , 12 , 267 - 278.
  • Lehmann, WP (ed.), Language and Linguistics in the People's Republic of China , University of Texas Press, (Austin), 1975.
  • Lin, Y., Lin Yutang's Chinese-English Modern Usage Dictionary , Hong Kong University of China, 1972.
  • Milsky, C., "New Developments in Language Reform", The China Quarterly , No. 53, (January-March 1973), pp. 98-133.
  • Norman, J., Chinese , Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1988.
  • Ramsey, RS (1987). The languages ​​of China. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01468-X
  • San Duanmu (2000) The phonology of the Chinese standard ISBN 0-19-824120-8
  • Seybolt, PJ & Chiang, GK (Eds.), Language Reform in China: Documents and Commentaries , ME Sharpe, (White Plains), 1979.
  • Simon, W., A Chinese-English Dictionary for Beginners of the Local Language (Gwoyeu): Fourth Revised Edition , Lund Humphries, (London), 1975.
  • Stalin, JV, "On Marxism in Linguistics", Pravda , Moscow, (June 20, 1950), simultaneously in Chinese in Renmin Ribao released , English translation: Stalin, JV, Marxism and Problems of Linguistics , Foreign Languages ​​Press, (Beijing), 1972.
  • Wu, Y., "Report on the Current Tasks of Reforming the Written Language and Drafting a Scheme for a Chinese Phonetic Alphabet", pp. 30–54 in Anon, Reform of the written Chinese language , Foreign Languages ​​Press, (Beijing), 1958.
  • Zhou, E., "Current Tasks of the Reform of the Written Language", pp. 7–29 in Anon, Reform of the written Chinese language , Foreign Languages ​​Press, (Beijing), 1958.
  • Zhou, E., "The Immediate Tasks in Reforming Writing", pp. 228–243 in Seybolt, PJ & Chiang, GK (eds.), Language Reform in China: Documents and Commentary , ME Sharpe, (White Plains), 1979.
  • MacGillivray, Donald (1907). A Mandarin Romanized Dictionary of Chinese (2nd ed.). Printed by the Presbyterian Mission Press. Retrieved May 15, 2011.

External links