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Cantonese Pinyin • Google Pinyin • Microsoft Pinyin IME • Pinyin (disambiguation) • Pinyin alphabet • Pinyin language • Pinyin method • Pinyin table • Postal pinyin • Sogou Pinyin • Standard Cantonese Pinyin • Tibetan pinyin • Tongyong Pinyin • Yale Pinyin
|Scheme of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet|
for Standard Chinese
Hanyu Pinyin (ISO standard)
Latinxua Sin Wenz
Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II
Chinese Postal Map Romanization
for Sichuanese Mandarin
Scuanxua Ladinxua Xin Wenz
Hong Kong Government
S. L. Wong (phonetic symbols)
S. L. Wong (romanisation)
for Shanghai and Suzhou dialects
for Taiwanese, Amoy, and related
Daighi tongiong pingim
Modern Literal Taiwanese
Hainanhua Pinyin Fang'an
for Fuzhou dialect
for Moiyan dialect
Kejiahua Pinyin Fang'an
For Siyen dialect
for Nanchang dialect
Romanisation in Singapore
Romanization in Taiwan
Hanyu Pinyin (simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音; traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音; pinyin: Hànyǔ Pīnyīn; [pʰín ín]) is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into Latin script in the People's Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), Singapore, and Malaysia. It is often used to teach Standard Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters (汉字 / 漢字, hànzì) into computers.
The pinyin system was developed in the 1950s based on earlier forms of romanization. It was published by the Chinese government in 1958 and revised several times. The International Organization for Standardization adopted pinyin as the international standard in 1982. The system was adopted as the official standard in Taiwan in 2009, where it is generally referred to as the New Phonetic System.
In 1605, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci published Xizi qiji (The Miracle of Western Letters) 西字奇蹟 in Beijing. This was the first book to use the Roman alphabet to write the Chinese language. Twenty years later, another Jesuit in China, Nicolas Trigault, issued his Xi ru ermu zi (Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati) 西儒耳目資 at Hangzhou. Neither book had much immediate impact on the way in which Chinese thought about their writing system, and the romanizations they described were intended more for Westerners than for the Chinese, but implied a first effort which eventually gave origin to pinyin.
One of the earliest Chinese thinkers to relate Western alphabets to Chinese was late-Ming to early Qing Dynasty scholar-official Fang Yizhi 方以智 (1611-1671).
It was not until more than two hundred years later that the concept of spelling planted in China by the Jesuits had sufficiently matured for the Chinese themselves to begin proposing its application for the design of new and more efficient scripts. The first late Qing reformer to propose that China adopt a system of spelling was Song Shu (1862-1910). A student of the great scholars, Yu Yue 俞樾 and Zhang Taiyan 章太炎, Song had been to Japan and observed the stunning effect of the kana syllabaries and Western learning there. This galvanized him into activity on a number of fronts, one of the most important being reform of the script. While Song did not himself actually create a system for spelling Sinitic languages, his discussion proved fertile and led to a proliferation of schemes for phonetic scripts.
In the early 1930s, Communist Party of China leaders trained in Moscow introduced a phonetic alphabet using roman letters developed in the Soviet Oriental Institute of Leningrad. This Sin Wenz or "New Writing", from which the present pinyin system differs only slightly, was much more linguistically sophisticated than earlier alphabets, with the major exception that it did not indicate tones.
In 1940, several thousand members attended a Border Region Sin Wenz Society convention. Mao Zedong and Zhu De, head of the army, both contributed their calligraphy (in characters) for the masthead of the Sin Wenz Society's new journal. Outside the CCP, other prominent supporters included Sun Yat-sen's son, Sun Fo; Cai Yuanpei, the country's most prestigious educator; Tao Xingzhi, a leading educational reformer; and Lu Xun. Over thirty journals soon appeared written in Sin Wenz, plus large numbers of translations, biographies (including Lincoln, Franklin, Edison, Ford, and Charlie Chaplin), some contemporary Chinese literature, and a spectrum of textbooks. In 1940, the movement reached an apex when Mao's Border Region Government declared that the Sin Wenz had the same legal status as traditional characters in government and public documents. Many educators and political leaders looked forward to the day when they would be universally accepted and completely replace characters. Opposition arose, however, because the system was less well adapted to writing regional languages, and therefore would require learning Mandarin. Sin Wenzi fell into relative disuse during the following years.
Pinyin was developed as part a Chinese government project in the 1950s. One of the central people was Zhou Youguang, who is often called "the father of Pinyin", as he led a government committee in developing the romanization system. Zhou was working in a New York bank when he decided to return to China to help rebuild the country after the establishment of the PRC in 1949. Believing he was helping Mao Zedong build a democracy, Zhou became an economics professor in Shanghai. In 1954 China's Ministry of Education created a Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language. Zhou was assigned the task of helping to develop a new romanization system.
Hanyu Pinyin was based on several preexisting systems: (Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz of 1931, and the diacritic markings from zhuyin). "I’m not the father of pinyin," Zhou said years later, "I’m the son of pinyin. It’s [the result of] a long tradition from the later years of the Qing dynasty down to today. But we restudied the problem and revisited it and made it more perfect."
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 Chinese pronunciation and used to improve the literacy rate among adults.
Beginning in the early 1980s, in regards to people from Mainland China, western publications began using the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system instead of earlier romanization systems; this change followed the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the PRC in 1979. In 2001, the PRC Government issued the National Common Language Law, providing a legal basis for applying pinyin.
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. 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.
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 text into computers.
Chinese families who speak Mandarin as a mother tongue use pinyin to help children associate characters with spoken words which they already know. Chinese families who speak some other language as their mother tongue use the system to teach children Mandarin pronunciation when they learn vocabulary in elementary school.
Since 1958, Pinyin has been actively used in adult education as well, making it easier for formerly illiterate people to continue with self-study after a short period of Pinyin literacy instruction.
Pinyin has become a tool for many foreigners to learn the Mandarin pronunciation, and is used to explain both the grammar and spoken Mandarin coupled with hanzi. Books containing both Chinese characters and pinyin are often used by 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").
The tone-marking diacritics are commonly omitted in popular news stories and even in scholarly works. This results in some degree of ambiguity as to which words are being represented.
In this system, the correspondence between the Roman letter and the sound is sometimes idiosyncratic, though not necessarily more so than the way the Latin script is employed in other languages. For example, the aspiration distinction between b, d, g and p, t, k is similar to that of English (in which the two sets are however also differentiated by voicing), but not to that of French. Z and c also have that distinction, pronounced as [ts] and [tsʰ],similar to the german z and to and the italian z of "pazzo", however these languages do not have the 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 reminds the trained reader that many Chinese pronounce sh, zh, ch as s, z, c (and English-speakers use zh to represent /ʒ/ in foreign languages such as Russian anyway). In the x, j, q series, the Pinyin use of x is similar to its use in Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Basque and Maltese; and the Pinyin q is akin to its value in Albanian; both Pinyin and Albanian pronunciations may sound similar to the ch to the untrained ear. Pinyin vowels are pronounced in a similar way 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 and spelling of Chinese words are generally given in terms of initials and finals, which represent the segmental phonemic portion of the language, rather than letter by letter. 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).
Unlike in European languages, clusters of letters – initials (simplified Chinese: 声母; traditional Chinese: 聲母; pinyin: shēngmǔ) and finals (simplified Chinese: 韵母; traditional Chinese: 韻母; pinyin: yùnmǔ) – and not consonant and vowel letters, are the fundamental elements in pinyin (and most other phonetic systems used to describe the Han language). Nearly each Mandarin 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. One exception is the city Harbin (simplified Chinese: 哈尔滨; traditional Chinese: 哈爾濱), which is from the Manchu language originally.
Even though most initials contain a consonant, finals are not always simple vowels, especially in compound finals (simplified Chinese: 复韵母; traditional Chinese: 複韻母; pinyin: fuyunmu), i.e., when a "medial" is placed in front of the final. For example, the medials [i] and [u] are pronounced with such tight openings at the beginning of a final that some native Chinese speakers (especially when singing or on stage) pronounce yī (Chinese: 衣; , clothes, officially pronounced /i/) as /ji/, wéi (simplified Chinese: 围; traditional Chinese: 圍, to enclose, officially as /uei/) as /wei/ or /wuei/. Often these medials are treated as separate from the finals rather than as part of them; this convention is followed in the chart of finals below.
In each cell below, the first line indicates the IPA, the second indicates pinyin.
|Semivowel||[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 [ɥ] (a labial-palatal approximant) before "u".
The 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|
The following chart gives the combinations of medials and finals based on an analysis that assumes just two vowel nuclei, /a/ and /ə/; various allophones result depending on phonetic context.
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 You can hear recordings of the Finals here
The only syllable-final consonants in Standard Chinese are -n and -ng, and -r, which is attached as a grammatical suffix. A Chinese syllable ending with any other consonant either is from a non-Mandarin language (a southern Chinese language such as Cantonese, or a minority language of China), or indicates the use of a non-pinyin Romanization system (where final consonants may be used to indicate tones).
|[u̯əŋ], [ʊŋ] 4
1 [ɑɻ] is written 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 Erhua#Rules.
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 "weng" is pronounced [ʊŋ] (written as "ong") when it follows an initial.
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] (欸, 誒) and syllabic nasals m (呒, 呣), n (嗯, 唔), ng (嗯, 𠮾) are used as interjections.
All rules given here in terms of English pronunciation are approximations, as several of these sounds do not correspond directly to sounds in English.
|b||[p]||bar, boy||unaspirated b, as in bar, boy, bull|
|p||[pʰ]||pull, put||strongly aspirated p, as in pull, put, pair|
|m||[m]||may, mom||as in English mummy|
|f||[f]||far, fair||as in English far, fair, fun|
|d||[t]||dog||unaspirated d, as in dog, doll, dot|
|t||[tʰ]||take||strongly aspirated t, as in top, tai|
|n||[n]||nay||as in English no, not, note|
|l||[l]||lay||as in English love|
|g||[k]||gold||unaspirated g, as in god, gold, girl, go|
|k||[kʰ]||kail, kent||strongly aspirated k, as in kail, kit|
|h||[x]||hot, hay||like the English h if followed by "a". It is pronounced roughly like the Scots ch and Russian х (Cyrillic "kha").|
|j||[tɕ]||Jesus, John||like the English j, as in Jesus, jill|
|q||[tɕʰ]||cheese, cheek||No equivalent in English. But it is like cheese, cheek, and cheer, with the lips spread wide with ee. Curl the tip of the tongue downwards to stick it at the back of the teeth and strongly aspirate. The sequence "qi" word-initially is the same as the Japanese pronunciation of ち(チ) chi.|
|x||[ɕ]||she||No equivalent in English. But it is like she, with the lips spread and the tip of your tongue curled downwards and stuck to the back of teeth when you say ee. The sequence "xi" is the same as the Japanese pronunciation of し(シ) shi.|
|zh||[tʂ]||?||No equivalent in English. Rather like ch (a sound between zoo, true, and drew, tongue tip curled more upwards). Voiced in a toneless syllable.|
|ch||[tʂʰ]||?||No equivalent in English. Rather like chin, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to nurture in American English, but strongly aspirated.|
|sh||[ʂ]||?||No equivalent in English. Rather like show, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to marsh in American English|
|r||[ʐ], [ɻ]||ray, rent, role||Similar to the English r in azure when used not as the initial sound of a word and r in reduce, roar, and rule as the initial sound, 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]||reads||No equivalent in English. Rather like the unaspirated c, similar to something between suds and cats; as in suds in a toneless syllable|
|c||[tsʰ]||hats||No equivalent in English. But similar to the English words ending with ts sound, such as in cats, thats, but strongly aspirated, very similar to the Polish c.|
|s||[s]||say, stop||as in sun, sorry|
|y||[j], [ɥ]||you, yea||as in yes or like i in is and like e in ear. Before a u, it is pronounced with rounded lips.*|
|w||[w]||way, woll||as in water, war, way.*|
|'||[.], [∅], [ɰ]||new syllable**|
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: [ɕi.an]) 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.
The apostrophe (') is used before a syllable starting with a vowel (a, o, or e) in a multiple-syllable word when the syllable does not start the word (which is most commonly realized as [ɰ]), unless the syllable immediately follows a hyphen or other dash. This is done to remove ambiguity that could arise, as in Xi'an, which consists of the two syllables xi ("西") an ("安"), compared to such words as xian ("先"). (This ambiguity does not occur when tone marks are used: The two tone marks in "Xīān" unambiguously show that the word consists of two syllables. However, even with tone marks, the city is usually spelled with an apostrophe as "Xī'ān".)
The following is a list of finals in Standard Chinese, excepting most of those ending with a -r.
To find a given final:
|Pinyin||IPA||Form with zero initial||Explanation|
|-i||[ɨ]||(n/a)||-i is a buzzed continuation of the consonant following z-, c-, s-, zh-, ch-, sh- or r-.
(In all other cases, -i has the sound of bee; this is listed below.)
|a||[ɑ]||a||as in "father"|
|e||[ɯ̯ʌ], [ə]||e||a diphthong consisting first of a back, unrounded semivowel (which can be formed by first pronouncing "w" and then spreading the lips without changing the position of the tongue) followed by a vowel similar to English "duh". Many unstressed syllables in Chinese use the schwa [ə] (idea), and this is also written as e.|
|ai||[aɪ̯]||ai||like English "eye", but a bit lighter|
|ei||[eɪ̯]||ei||as in "hey"|
|ao||[ɑʊ̯]||ao||approximately as in "cow"; the a is much more audible than the o|
|ou||[ɤʊ̯]||ou||as in "so"|
|an||[an]||an||as in "ban" in British English (a more open fronted a)|
|en||[ən]||en||as in "taken"|
|ang||[ɑŋ]||ang||as in German Angst (starts with the vowel sound in father and ends in the velar nasal; like song in some dialects of American English)|
|eng||[əŋ]||eng||like e in en above but with ng added to it at the back|
|er||[ɑɻ]||er||similar to the sound in "bar" in American English|
|Finals beginning with i- (y-)|
|i||[i]||yi||like English bee.|
|ia||[i̯ɑ]||ya||as i + a; like English "yard"|
|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||[i̯ɑʊ̯]||yao||as i + ao|
|iu||[i̯ɤʊ̯]||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 + ng|
|Finals beginning with u- (w-)|
|u||[u]||wu||like English "oo"|
|ua||[u̯ɑ]||wa||as u + a|
|uo, o||[u̯ɔ]||wo||as u + o where the o (compare with the o interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter (spelled as o after b, p, m or f).|
|uai||[u̯aɪ̯]||wai||as u + ai like as in why|
|ui||[u̯eɪ̯]||wei||as u + ei;|
|uan||[u̯an]||wan||as u + an;|
|un||[u̯ən]||wen||as u + en; like the on in the English won;|
|uang||[u̯ɑŋ]||wang||as u + ang;|
|ong||[ʊŋ], [u̯əŋ]||weng||starts with the vowel sound in book and ends with the velar nasal sound in sing; as u + eng in zero initial.|
|Finals beginning with ü- (yu-)|
|u, ü||[y] ( listen)||yu||as in German "über" or French "lune" (To pronounce this sound, say "ee" with rounded lips)|
|ue, üe||[y̯œ]||yue||as ü + ê; the ü is short and light|
|uan||[y̯ɛn]||yuan||as ü + ê + n;|
|un||[yn]||yun||as ü + n;|
|iong||[i̯ʊŋ]||yong||as i + ong|
|ê||[ɛ]||(n/a)||as in "bet".|
|o||[ɔ]||(n/a)||Approximately as in "office" in British accent; the lips are much more rounded.|
|io||[i̯ɔ]||yo||as i + plain continental[clarification needed] "o".|
Pinyin differs from other romanizations in several aspects, such as the following:
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).
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).
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 from 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.
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:
The words are "mother", "hemp", "horse", "scold" and a question particle, respectively.
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
|First||macron ( ¯ )||1||mā||ma1||mɑ˥|
|Second||acute accent ( ´ )||2||má||ma2||mɑ˧˥|
|Third||caron ( ˇ )||3||mǎ||ma3||mɑ˨˩˦|
|Fourth||grave accent ( ` )||4||mà||ma4||mɑ˥˩|
or dot before syllable (·)
Briefly, the tone mark should always be placed by the order--'a','o','e','i','u','ü', with the only exception being 'iu', where the tone mark is placed on the 'u' instead. 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 written dummy 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. In this case, 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 in the absence of a written nucleus. This occurs with syllables ending in -ui (from wei: (wèi → -uì) and in -iu (from you: yòu → -iù.) That is, in the absence of a written nucleus the finals have priority for receiving the tone marker, 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:
If the tone is written over an i, the tittle above the i is omitted, as in yī.
The placement of the tone marker, when more than one of the written letters a, e, i, o, and u appears, can also be inferred from the nature of the vowel sound in the medial and final. The rule is that the tone marker goes on the spelled vowel that is not a (near-)semi-vowel. The exception is that, for triphthongs that are spelled with only two vowel letters, both of which are the semi-vowels, the tone marker goes on the second spelled vowel.
Specifically, if the spelling of a diphthong begins with i (as in ia) or u (as in ua), which here serves as a near-semi-vowel, this letter does not take the tone marker. Likewise, if the spelling of a diphthong ends with o or u representing a near-semi-vowel (as in ao or ou), this letter does not receive a tone marker. In a triphthong spelled with three of a, e, i, o, and u (with i or u replaced by y or w at the start of a syllable), the first and third letters coincide with near-semi-vowels and hence do not receive the tone marker (as in iao or uai or iou). But if no letter is written to represent a triphthong's middle (non-semi-vowel) sound (as in ui or iu), then the tone marker goes on the final (second) vowel letter.
In addition to tone number and mark, tone color has been suggested as a visual aid for learning. Although there are no formal standards, the de facto standard has been to use red (tone 1), orange (tone 2), green (tone 3), blue (tone 4) and black (tone 5).
A 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 lü (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 lǘ.
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 yú, not as yǘ. 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 jü. Genuine ambiguities only happen with nu/nü and lu/lü, 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. For example, it is common for cellphones to use v instead of ü. Additionally, some stores in China use v instead of ü in the transliteration of their names. Occasionally, uu (double u), u: (u followed by a colon) or U (capital u) is used in its place.
Although nüe written as nue, and lüe written as lue are not ambiguous, nue or lue are not correct according the rules; nüe and lüe should be used instead. However, some Chinese input methods (e.g. Microsoft Pinyin IME) support both nve/lve (typing v for ü) and nue/lue.
Taiwan (Republic of China) 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. Tongyong pinyin ("official phonetic"), a variant of Pinyin developed in Taiwan, was designed to romanize languages and dialects spoken on the island in addition to Mandarin Chinese. The Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) resisted its adoption, preferring the Hanyu pinyin system used in China and in general use internationally. Romanization preferences quickly became associated with issues of national identity. Preferences split along party lines: the Kuomintang and its affiliated parties in the pan-blue coalition supported the use of Hanyu Pinyin while the Democratic Progressive Party and its affiliated parties in the pan-green coalition favored the use of Tongyong Pinyin.
Tongyong pinyin was made the official system in an administrative order that allowed its adoption by local governments to be voluntary. A few localities with governments controlled by the Kuomintang (KMT), most notably Taipei, Hsinchu, and Kinmen County, overrode the order and converted to Hanyu pinyin before the January 1, 2009 national-level switch, though with a slightly different capitalization convention than mainland China. Most areas of Taiwan adopted Tongyong Pinyin, consistent with the national policy. Many street signs in Taiwan today still display Tongyong pinyin but some, especially in northern Taiwan, display Hanyu pinyin. It is still not unusual to see spellings on street signs and buildings derived from the older Wade-Giles, MPS2 and other systems.
The adoption of Hanyu pinyin as the official romanization system in Taiwan does not preclude the official retention of earlier spellings. International familiarity has led to the retention of the spelling Taipei ("Taibei" in Pinyin systems) and even to its continuation in the name of New Taipei, a municipality created in 2010. Personal names on Taiwanese passports honor the choices of Taiwanese citizens, who often prefer the Wade-Giles romanization of their personal names. Transition to Hanyu pinyin in official use is also necessarily gradual. Universities and other government entities retain earlier spellings in long-established names, budget restraints preclude widespread replacement of signage and stationery in every area, and questions remain about the ability of the national government to enforce the standard island-wide. Primary education in Taiwan continues to teach pronunciation using zhuyin (MPS or Mandarin Phonetic Symbols).
Pinyin is now used by foreign students learning Chinese as a second language.
Pinyin assigns some Latin letters sound values which are quite different from that of most languages. This has drawn some criticism as it may lead to confusion when uninformed speakers apply either native or English assumed pronunciations to words. However this is not a specific problem of pinyin, since many languages that use the Latin alphabet natively assign different values to the same letters. A recent study on Chinese writing and literacy concluded, "By and large, Pinyin represents the Chinese sounds better than the Wade-Giles system, and does so with fewer extra marks."
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 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 computers and digitizing tablets allow users to input characters directly by writing with a stylus.
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-Han languages like Mongolian, Uyghur, and Tibetan are also officially transcribed using pinyin in a system adopted by the State Administration of Surveying and Mapping and Geographical Names Committee known as SASM/GNC romanization. The pinyin letters (26 Roman letters, ü, ê) are used to approximate the non-Han 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)||Traditional Chinese name||Simplified Chinese name||Pinyin for Chinese name|
|Official romanization adopted
by the People's Republic of China
|de facto used romanization
by the People's Republic of China
|Official romanization adopted
by the Republic of China (Taiwan)
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