Tonally Orthographic Pinyin (TOP) is a modification of Hanyu Pinyin that uses capitalization practices to distinguish between the various tones of Mandarin.
This can mess with the capitalization found at the beginnings of sentences and proper nouns, so I have mixed feelings about it. But many find TOP useful as a learning tool and in writing text messages.
Here’s how TOP’s creator, Terry Thatcher Waltz, describes the system:
FIRST TONES ARE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. YOUR VOICE IS HIGH.
seconD toneS arE writteN witH thE lasT letteR capitalizeD. that’S becausE youR voicE haS tO risE.
third tones are written all lower case. that’s because the voice is low. (let’s keep discussions on the true nature of third and half-third tones somewhere else — this system is just to help us poor foreigners internalize tones!)
Fourth Tone Has The First Letter Of Each Word Capitalized, Because Your Voice Starts High And Then Falls Downward.
Thus, the phrase “wǒ měitiān liànxí Hànyǔ” would be written “wo meiTIAN LianxI Hanyu” in TOP.
See the first link below for details.
- How do you guys learn the tones?, post by Ironlady (Terry Thatcher Waltz) in Chinese Pod thread, August 16, 2006
- tool to convert Hanyu Pinyin with tone numbers to TOP
- Tonally Orthographic Pinyin, Taiwanease
- ChineseAndSpanish.com, Web site of TOP creator Terry Waltz