A romanization system is a method of using letters of the Roman alphabet
(ABCD...) to recreate the sounds of a language whose writing system
may or may not use the Roman alphabet. A Chinese romanization system
would thus be a method of using the Roman alphabet to pronounce
Chinese characters (or hanzi) used in Chinese languages.|
Although the Chinese language has many dialects (examples: Cantonese,
Hakka, Shanghainese, and Minnan), the official one is based on the
pronunciation in Beijing, China. This dialect is named the following:
- Literal: "Commonlect"
- Term used in mainland China.
- Literal: "Statelect"
- Term used in Taiwan and other Chinese countries.
In Mandarin, every Chinese character has a set pitch or tone. There are
four possible tones. Because the Chinese characters in Mandarin can also
be de-tonalized, a fifth tone can also be considered. Romanization systems
indicate tone by one of the following methods...
Outside of language teaching, tone marks and numbers are usually
never used. On the internet, tonal numbers are more convenient than
tone marks since they don't require special fonts.
- Tone marks: Placing a special mark over a vowel in a syllable to indicate tone.
- Tonal numbers: Placing a number (in this case 1-4 or 1-5) at the end of a syllable.
- Tonal spellings: Use combinations of Roman letters to indicate different tones (i.e. spelling the tone out).
There are many different romanization systems for Mandarin. The
most commonly seen in English are Pinyin and Wade-Giles. Since the
late 1970s Pinyin has increasingly tended to replace other systems
both in teaching and in other uses (although Wade-Giles is still
resilient in some quarters). Aside from the systems listed below,
in French the EFEO system and in German the Lessing-Othmer system have
(or rather used to have) a place similar to the use of Wade-Giles in
Chinese romanizations worthy of mention are:
- Latinhua Sin Wenz (Beila)
- Created in 1929 by Qu Qiubai et al., final form in 1931
- Popular during the 1930s and 1940s.
- Used in northern China and Soviet Union.
- No tonal indicators.
- No longer used (replaced by PinYin)
- PinYin (full name: Hanyu Pinyin [i.e. Chinese alphabetic system])
- Promulgated in 1958
- United Nations Standard from 1977
- International Standard Organization (ISO) standard from 1982
- Gwoyeu Romatzyh (also called National Romanization)
- Finalized in 1928
- Created by Y.R. Chao (Zhao Yuanren) and others.
- Uses tonal spellings instead of tone marks.
- Occasionally seen in Taiwan
- Juyin II
- Finalized in 1986
- Adapted from Gwoyeu Romatzyh
- Uses tone marks instead of tonal spellings.
- From 1998 used on some street-signs in Taiwan but not Taipei
- First published in 1859 by Thomas Francis Wade
- Developed from R. Morrison's 1815 system.
- Later modifed by Herbert Allen Giles in 1912.
- Uses k k' p p' t t' etc. instead of g k b p d t
- Formerly near exclusive system in English-speaking countries.
- Remains defacto system in Taiwan for personal names
- Created in 1948 for US military language-teaching
- Later widely used in teaching in the US for a period of time
- Chinese Post Office System
- Old system used instead of Wade-Giles for some place-names
- Peking (Wade-Giles: Pei-ching)
- Tsingtao (Wade-Giles: Ch'ing-tao)
- Chungking (Wade-Giles: Ch'ung-ch'ing)
- Sinkiang (Wade-Giles: Hsin-chiang)
The last romanization system, called "Chinese Post Office System", conventional, or old western system was once
very important to China, as all the provinces and city names used this system on maps used in the western world.
After PinYin became official, almost all modern maps (within and outside of China) now use PinYin romanization for all the provinces and city names.
For example, Peking became Beijing.
Though not a romanization, also of interest is the Mandarin Phonetic
Symbols, or Juyin Fuhao (also known as BoPoMoFo to children and
foreigners of Chinese), whose symbols are derived from
character-strokes. This system was adopted in 1913, and is used
in Taiwan to indicate pronunciation in dictionaries, teach
children to read, etc. On mainland China, this system was
replaced by Pinyin.
In a related area, there are two different ways to depict Chinese characters,
the traditional and the simplified version. Not long ago, mainland China
modified some commonly used Chinese characters and simplified them,
creating a new writing system for the Chinese language.
Daoism Depot currently uses the PinYin system with Wade-Giles system
in brackets. For Chinese characters, traditional Chinese are displayed
along with the simplified Chinese version in brackets.