November 3, 1892 – February 25, 1982
Today, the thirtieth anniversary of the death of the brilliant linguist and all-around interesting guy Y.R. Chao (Zhao Yuanren / Zhào Yuánrèn / 趙元任 / 赵元任), I’m remembering him by rereading some of his work. (Chao died twenty years and one day after his good friend Hu Shih.)
Here are some readings here on Pinyin.info by or about Y.R. Chao that you may wish to review:
- Responses to objections to romanization
- Y.R. Chao’s Mandarin translation (in Gwoyeu Romatzyh) of the Humpty Dumpty section of Through the Looking-Glass
- Interviews with Y.R. Chao
- Roots of the stone lions story
- Basic spelling conventions of Gwoyeu Romatzyh (Guóyǔ Luómǎzì / 國語羅馬字 / 国语罗马字)
- Chart comparing Gwoyeu Romatzyh and Hanyu Pinyin, alphabetized by GR first tone
- Y.R. Chao works being reissued
- One State, One People, One Language
Jihniahn Zhaoh Yuarnrehn, yohng zihmuu biaodiaoh.
Jìniàn Zhào Yuánrèn, yòng zìm? bi?odiào.
To remember Zhao Yuanren, to use alphabet for marking tones.
Example using alphabet for marking the four tones of Mandarin:
Personally I find Guoyu Luomazi more recognizable than Hanyu Pinyin because of the different word lengths of the tonal spelling. This system was well designed but only with the obvious flaw of being overly “difficult”. If Zhao Yuanren were still alive, I wonder what improvement he would bring to the system.
Simplified GR tonal spelling method uses in Hanyu Pinyin is workable.
Jiaanhuah d GR biaodiaohfaa yohngyur Hahnyuu Pinyin shih keexirng d.
Great man; great contribution to human understanding.
May he rest in peace. Eventually, if China is to conquer the world both culturally and economically, they will have to make the national Chinese language easy to learn for the rest of the world.
This man’s work, together with others such as Lin Yutang, pointed to the only
practical way to try to do that. Difficulties will be refined through academics, and who knows what that will bring.