writing four-syllable idioms in Pinyin

cover of Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and OrthographyThe latest excerpt from Yin Binyong’s book on Pinyin orthography covers how to write four-syllable idioms in Hanyu Pinyin (929 KB PDF). Here’s a key passage:

almost all four-character idioms can be broken in two halves, called yǔjié 语节 (language segments), on the basis of phonetic structure. The simple expedient of connecting the two yǔjié with a hyphen then provides idioms with their own distinctive written form, and assures ease of writing and reading. It is also a simple rule for students of HP to master.

But not all four-syllable idioms follow this rule, as the reading shows.

This is a worthwhile reading for Mandarin learners, even if you’re not particularly interested in Pinyin. There are many examples of idioms here, all given in Hanzi, Pinyin, and English.

gov’t unveils online Taiwanese dictionary

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has put online its new Taiwanese (Hoklo) dictionary, the Táiwān Mǐnnányǔ chángyòngcí cídiǎn (giving the Mandarin name) (臺灣閩南語常用詞辭典). The preliminary version, which is to be amended in six months, contains 16,000 entries.

I especially welcome the section on Taiwan place-names.

further reading: MOE launches first Hoklo-language online dictionary, Taipei Times, October 20, 2008 [Note: The headline’s use of “first” is almost certainly incorrect.]

detailed rules for Hanyu Pinyin: a major addition to Pinyin.Info

cover of Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and OrthographyFor several years I’ve had online the brief official principles for writing Hanyu Pinyin. But those go only so far. Fortunately, Yin Binyong (Yǐn Bīnyōng / 尹斌庸) (1930-2003), who was involved in work on Hanyu Pinyin from the beginning, wrote two books on the subject, producing a detailed, logical, and effective orthography for Pinyin.

The only one of those two books with English explanations as well as Mandarin, Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography (Mandarin title: Hànyǔ Pīnyīn hé Zhèngcífǎ / 汉语拼音和正词法 / 漢語拼音和正詞法), has gone out of print; and at present there are no plans to bring it back into print. Fortunately, however, I was eventually able to secure the rights to reproduce this work on Pinyin.Info. Yes, the entire book. So everybody be sure to say thank you to the generous publisher by buying Sinolingua’s books.

This book, which is nearly 600 pages long, is a mother lode of information. It would be difficult for me to overstate its importance. Over the next few months I’ll be releasing the work in sections. I had intended to delay this a little, as I have had to wait for a fancy new scanner and am still awaiting some OCR software that can handle Hanzi as well as the Roman alphabet. (This Web site is an expensive hobby!) But since Taiwan has recently adopted Hanyu Pinyin I will be releasing some material soon (without OCR, for the time being) in the hope of helping Taiwan avoid making mistakes in its implementation of an orthography for Pinyin here.

Watch this blog for updates.

software for Shanghainese

Professor Qián Nǎiróng (Qian Nairong / 錢乃榮) of Shanghai University has just issued free software to help with the writing of Shanghainese (上海话). People may now download the 1.3 MB zip file of the program.

Some examples:

shanghe 上海
shanghehhehho 上海闲/言话(上海话)
whangpugang 黄浦江
suzouhhu苏州河
shyti 事体(事情)
makshy 物事(东西)
bhakxiang 白相(玩)
dangbhang 打朋(开玩笑)
ghakbhangyhou 轧朋友(交朋友)
cakyhangxiang 出洋相(闹笑话,出丑)
linfhakqin 拎勿清(不能领会)
dhaojiangwhu 淘浆糊(混)
aoshaoxhin 拗造型(有意塑造姿态形象)
ghe 隑(靠)
kang 囥(藏)
yin 瀴(凉、冷)
dia 嗲
whakji 滑稽

The program offers two flavors of romanization. Here are some examples of the differences between the two styles:

New Folk Old Timers
makshy 物事(东西)
bhakxiang 白相(玩)
dangbhang 打朋(开玩笑)
ghakbhangyhou 轧朋友(交朋友)
cakyhangxiang 出洋相(闹笑话,出丑)
linfhakqin 拎勿清(不能领会)
mekshy 物事(东西)
bhekxian 白相(玩)
danbhan 打朋(开玩笑)
ghakbhanyhou 轧朋友(交朋友)
cekyhanxian 出洋相(闹笑话,出丑)
linfhekqin 拎勿清(不能领会)

Here’s a brief story on this:

Xiànzài, wǒmen zài wǎngluò zhōng liáotiān de shíhou yuèláiyuè duō de péngyou dōu kāishǐ xǐhuan yòng Shànghǎihuà. Dànshì yǒushíhou shìbushì juéde xiǎng biǎodá dehuà bùzhīdào zěnme dǎ, nòng de yǒudiǎn bùlúnbùlèi ne? Xiànzài, yī ge kěyǐ qīngsōng dǎchū Shànghǎihuà de chéngxù chūlai le.

Jīngguò liǎng nián nǔlì, Shànghǎi dàxué Zhōngwénxì Qián Nǎiróng jiàoshòu jí tā de yánjiūshēng hé dādàng zhōngyú yú běnyuè wánchéng le Shànghǎihuà shūrùfǎ de zhìzuò. Zhíde guānzhù de shì, zhè tào shūrùfǎ hái bāokuò xīn-lǎo liǎng ge bǎnběn, 45 suì yǐshàng de lǎo Shànghǎi rénhé niánqīng yī dài de Shànghǎirén dōu kěyǐ zhǎodào zìjǐ de “dǎfǎ.”

Háishi tóngyàng 26 ge zìmǔ de jiànpán, 8 yuè 1 rì qǐ xiàzài le Shànghǎihuà shūrùfǎ zhīhòu, nín jiù kěyǐ tōngguò shūrù “linfhakqin” dǎchū “līn wù qīng,” shūrù “dhaojiangwhu” dǎchū “táo jiànghu” děng yuánzhī yuán wèi de Shànghǎihuà le. Zuótiān, jìzhě tíqián xiàzài dào gāi ruǎnjiàn. Ànzhào shǐyòng shuōmíng, yòng quánpīn de fāngshì chángshì shūrù “laoselaosy” zhèxiē zìmǔ, píngmù shàng, lìjí chūxiàn le “lǎo sānlǎo sì” (Shànghǎihuà, yìsi shì “màilǎo, chōng lǎochéng de yàngzi”).

Jùxī, yóuyú Shànghǎihuà yǔ Pǔtōnghuà de dúfǎ yǒusuǒbùtóng, suǒyǐ zài pīnyīn pīnxiě fāngshì shàng háishi xūyào shǐyòng shuōmíng de bāngzhù. Bǐrú jìzhě fāxiàn, fánshì yǔ Pǔtōnghuà shēngmǔ, yùnmǔ xiāngtóng de zì, zài Shànghǎihuà shūrùfǎ zhōng zuìzhōng yòng de háishi Pǔtōnghuà pīnyīn, bùtóng de zé cǎiyòng Shànghǎihuà shūrùfǎ de pīnxiě fāngshì. Rú “chénguāng” de “chén,” “huātou” de “tóu” dōu fāchéng zhuóyīn, Shànghǎihuà pīnyīn shūrùfǎ zhōng yàozài shēngmǔ zhōng jiā yī ge zìmǔ h, pīnchéng “shen,” “dhou;” fánshì rùshēng zì, zé zài pīnyīn hòu jiā zìmǔk, rú “báixiāng” de “bái” jiù pīnchéng bhek.

Bùguò, dàjiā bùyào juéde tài nán. Jìzhě fāxiàn, Shànghǎihuà shūrùfǎ yǔ Pǔtōnghuà de shūrùfǎ zuìdà xiāngtóng zhī chǔzài yú, zhǐyào liánxù shūrù shēngmǔ hé yùnmǔ jiù kěyǐ, bùxū shūrù shēngdiào. Cǐwài, Shànghǎihuà pīnyīn shūrù xìtǒng háiyǒu lèisì “zhìnéng” yōudiǎn, kěyòng suōlüè fāngshì bǎ cíyǔ pīnxiě chūlai.

Zhǔchí Shànghǎihuà shūrùfǎ kāifā de Shànghǎi dàxué Zhōngwénxì Qián Nǎiróng jiàoshòu gàosu jìzhě, zhè tào shūrùfǎ bùjǐn néng dǎchū Shànghǎihuà dà cídiǎn zhōng 15,000 duō ge cítiáo, érqiě hái néng yòng Shànghǎihuà pīnyīn dǎchū Shànghǎihuà zhōng shǐyòng zhe de, yǔ Pǔtōnghuà cíyì xiāngtóng dàn yǔyīn bùtóng de chángyòng cíyǔ. Rú “Huángpǔ Jiāng” shūrù “whangpugang” , “lǐxiǎng” zéshì lixiang děng, gòngjì 10,000 duō ge cítiáo.

sources:

Mandarin newspaper with Pinyin

Victor Mair’s latest post at Language Log introduces a new U.S.-based newspaper, the Huayu Xuebao (Mandarin Learning Newspaper, ????), which is similar to Taiwan’s Guoyu Ribao (Mandarin Daily News), the main difference being the former uses Hanyu Pinyin while the latter uses zhuyin fuhao (bopo mofo).

Well, actually the Huayu Xuebao doesn’t use proper Pinyin (see recent remarks). But I’m so happy to see this long-needed paper that I’ll hold my tongue for now.

Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t have its Web site ready yet — not that the long-established Guoyu Ribao is much better at that, at least when it comes to texts as they appear in the newspaper. So, for more information about the Huayu Xuebao, write learningnewspaper [AT] yahoo.com or phone +1-201-288-9188 (New Jersey).

There’s also a sample issue.

source: How to learn to read Chinese, Language Log, May 25, 2008

President-elect Ma favors Hanzi-only writing of Taiwanese: report

If the Chen Shui-bian administration had bothered to do much of anything really useful to promote Taiwanese, especially as a written language, then we probably wouldn’t be faced with crap like this.

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou met last week with Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明), the chairman of the Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature at National Chengchi University (Zhèng-Dà). Although Professor Chen is a former DPP official and supported Frank Hsieh in the recent election, the two reportedly found much to agree on, such as that the idea that Chinese characters are all that are needed for literature in Taiwanese; romanization and other such phonetic spellings, they agreed, aren’t necessary.

Zǒngtǒng dāngxuǎnrén Mǎ Yīngjiǔ jīntiān bàihuì Zhèng-Dà Táiwān wénxué yánjiūsuǒ suǒzhǎng Chén Fāngmíng, tā biǎoshì liǎng rén jīntiān tándào běntǔhuà, zhuǎnxíng zhèngyì, běntǔ wénxué, dàxué píng jiàn děng yìtí, lìng tā yǒu “kōnggǔzúyīn” zhī gǎn, liǎng rén hěn duō kànfǎ dōu bùmóu’érhé, lìrú Chén Fāngmíng rènwéi zhǐyòng Zhōngwén xiě, Héluòhuà niàn, jiùshì Táiyǔ wénxué, bùyīdìng kèyì yào yòng Luómǎzì, yīn lái pīn.

This is certainly discouraging though not unexpected news for romanization supporters — and for those whose idea of Taiwanese lit isn’t stuck in the Qing dynasty or even earlier. But there’s always hope that this is another of those times in which Ma is simply persuaded by or agreeing with whatever is in front of him; and he may change his mind later. Regardless, though, it doesn’t augur well for a modern Taiwanese literature or for government work on — much less promotion of — romanization over the next four years.

source and further reading:

video of Pinyin’s ‘father,’ Zhou Youguang, in English

Roddy of Chinese Forums, Signese, Dreams of White Tiles, and even more sites, found a new video (4 min. 40 sec.) of Zhou Youguang speaking, in English, to a reporter from the Guardian.

I was kind of surprised to see this featured on the Guardian’s front page under the ‘Father of Pinyin’ title – I’d wager 9/10ths upwards of the Guardian’s readership doesn’t know what pinyin is. Somewhat unforgivably they’ve managed to spell the guy’s name wrong and not bothered to add tones to the pinyin used in the video, and the interview is pretty weak – basically it’s ‘here’s a nice old Chinese guy talking for a few minutes’ but there’s really very little of depth. They’ve also opted to add subtitles to what sounds to me like perfectly comprehensible English.

But enough negativity, if you want to get a look at the guy who rescued you from bopomofo, have a look.

As happy as I am about the video, I’m going to add a bit more negativity. Failure to get the word parsing correct is also a major error: not “pin yin zhi fu” but “P?ny?n zh? fù.” Actually, even that isn’t so good, because Pinyin is meant for modern baihua, not the style of Literary Sinitic and its many short forms. Thus, “P?ny?n de fùqin” would be better.

The accompanying article is amazingly sloppy in parts.

Although the article manages to spell Zhou Youguang’s name correctly, it consistently refers to him not by his family name but by his given name, “Youguang.” It’s almost inconceivable that any reporter in China could (repeatedly) make such an elementary mistake; so perhaps this is the fault of an overzealous copy editor.

I’m not going to sort out and list what’s correct and what’s incorrect in the rest of the article, other than mention one point at the end.

Confusingly, Taiwan uses several different romanisation methods — including a variant of pinyin, tongyong pinyin — and zuiyin.

Zuiyin? Of course what is meant is zhuyin (zhùy?n/??/??), which is spelled correctly earlier in the article. Zuiyin (zuìy?n/??) is a noun meaning “cause of a crime.”

sources:

exam completed in Pinyin

This season is the thirty-first anniversary of the reinstatement of China’s national college entrance examinations after the end of the disastrous Cultural Revolution. Here’s the story of something that happened the year of the reinstatement (1977), when Zhang Huiming, a professor in the Chinese department of Xianyang Normal College, grading exams from Xianyang, Shaanxi, and its surrounding areas.

That year, after the start of the third day of work grading the exams had begun, one of the teachers on the grading team suddenly shouted in amazement, “Come look at this exam!” There before all of us was a language exam that had been answered completely in Hanyu Pinyin. Facing this situation, everyone discussed it. Right away, some said, “This is simply horsing around, putting on a show. Give it a zero!” The head of the grading team was inclined toward this idea. But Zhang Huiming insisted on first putting the exam into Chinese characters. “Who wouldn’t allow such an exam? There’s no rule against it. And Chairman Mao long ago indicted, ‘Writing should follow the world’s common Pinyin trend [i.e., use an alphabet like everyone else].’”

Everyone fell silent. Zhang Huiming took about half an hour to annotate the Hanyu Pinyin with Chinese characters. It turned out that the exam was nearly without errors in spelling or tone marks. The score, to everyone’s surprise, was 88. The teachers who corrected the exams were all convinced by this examinee of the soundness of training in Hanyu Pinyin.

A nice story. But I can’t help but note sadly that a bunch of well-educated people didn’t simply read the essay as it was written. Such are the prejudices against it. What I’d really like is a story that doesn’t treat Pinyin as if it were merely a set of training wheels.

“Gāokǎo huīfù 30 nián” zhǔtí bàodào tuīchū hòu, hěn duō dúzhě fā lái diànzǐ yóujiàn, jiǎngshù dāngnián de gāokǎo gùshi. Xiányáng Shīfàn Xuéyuàn Zhōngwénxì jiàoshòu Zhāng Huìmín, shì 1977 nián Xiányáng dìqū yǔwén yuèjuàn lǎoshī zhīyī. Dāngnián, yī fèn wánquán yòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn wánchéng de yǔwén dájuàn ràng tā zhìjīn nánwàng.

Dāngnián, yuèjuàn gōngzuò kāishǐ hòu de dì-sān tiān, yuèjuànzǔ yī lǎoshī tūrán jīngyà de shuō: “Kuài kàn, zhè fèn shìjuàn!” Yī piān wánquán yòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zuòdá de yǔwén shìjuàn chéngxiàn zài dàjiā miànqián. Suíhòu, zhè fèn tèshū de shìjuàn zài quántǐ lǎoshī zhōngjiān kāishǐ chuányuè. Miànduì zhè yī qíngkuàng, dàjiā yìlùnfēnfēn. Yǒurén dāngchǎng biǎoshì: “Jiǎnzhí jiùshì húnào, biāoxīnlìyì, gěi língfēn!” Yuèjuànzǔ zǔzhǎng yě qīngxiàng gāi yìjian. Dàn Zhāng Huìmín jiānchí yīng xiān jiāng kǎojuàn fānyì chéng Hànzì. “Shuí bù ràng tā zhèyàng dájuàn? Gāokǎo bìng méiyǒu bùyǔn xǔyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zuò dá’àn de guīdìng, kuàngqiě Máo zhǔxí zǎojiù zhǐshì: ‘Wénzì yào zǒu shìjiè gòngtóng Pīnyīn de fāngxiàng.’”

Chénmò le yīhuìr zhīhòu, Zhāng Huìmín yòng jìn bàn ge xiǎoshí de shíjiān, gěi zhěng fèn dájuàn shàng de Hànyǔ Pīnyīn biāozhù le Hànzì. Ràng Zhāng Huìmín nányǐ wàngjì de shì, nà fèn kǎojuàn, yīnjié, shēngdiào jīhū méiyǒu cuòwù. Jiéguǒ, zhè fèn fèijìn zhōuzhé de yǔwén dájuàn jīng gě fùzé lǎoshī píngyuè hòu, zǒng fēn jìngrán shì 88 fēn. Quántǐ yuèjuàn lǎoshī dōu bèi zhè wèi kǎoshēng zhāshi de Hàn yǔyán gōngdǐ suǒ zhéfú.

source: Yī fèn yòng pīnyīn wánchéng de yǔwén shìjuàn (一份用拼音完成的语文试卷), Huash.com, March 27, 2007