5 thoughts on “syllable boundaries in Hanyu Pinyin

  1. I like your work on pinyin. But I wonder about the things you do with the hyphen (-) and apostrophe (‘) to make it more readable. In Taiwan they already forget the apostrophe all the time with the Wade system (rendering it useless) so I wonder if it is really a good idea to propose this (pepople will not pout it there its needed). Also someone who is not familiar with hanyu pinyin will have trouble (if the apostrophe isnt after each sylable for a word. I noticed this from working with the 3000 Frequent Chinese characters book from Far East) Does the hyphen and apostrophe reflect any kind of standard? Is there a ISO standard for pinyin (if yes which number?). What is great about your idea though is that you at least don’t write everything in messy uppercase to show diffrences :P

  2. Perhaps I should stress more that these aren’t my ideas about hyphens and apostrophes; these are what the rules call for. By this I’m referring especially to the Basic Rules of Hanyu Pinyin Orthography (which has been official in the PRC since 1996) and to Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography and the Xinhua Pinxie Cidian, both by Yin Binyong.

    The fact that people unfamiliar with the rules tend to get them wrong is hardly surprising. It certainly doesn’t mean that rules are unnecessary or that hyphens and apostrophes aren’t necessary. (They’re no less necessary in Pinyin than they are in English orthography.) Perhaps the rules will change over time in response; after all, that’s what happens with languages. But rules are ignored at our peril, especially in the relatively early stages of getting something established. The rules of English orthography are more easily bent and even broken; but that’s because everyone’s familiar enough with the conventions that they can usually make out what is meant. Pinyin, on the other hand, isn’t well enough established yet “among the masses” as a full writing system that it can be written willy-nilly. Thus, I consider the Taipei City Government’s tendency to write “RenAi” rather than “Ren’ai” no more acceptable than for, say, Taiwan’s official world maps to label “New York” as “NuYork”.

    And, anyway, if people are going to use camel caps (which I hate, hate, hate), they’d need to use them 100 percent of the time with polysyllabic words; on the other hand, apostrophes are needed with just about 2 percent of polysyllabic words. It’s obvious which of the two is the least trouble.

    Pinyin is in ISO (ISO-7098:1991). It would be nice if the specifications, which are just 5 pages long but cost some US$37, give an accurate description of Pinyin. But I doubt it — and I’m certainly not going to rely on what ISO says, other than perhaps for a syllable list.

  3. Thanks for the catch on Ài’?ns?t?n, Joe. You’re right about the y, though it doesn’t need the apostrophe.
    The odd spelling is what’s in my original, though not in the somewhat expanded translation of the same rules in the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary. I’ll change it to Àiy?ns?t?n.

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