gov’t unveils online Taiwanese dictionary

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has put online its new Taiwanese (Hoklo) dictionary, the Táiw?n M?nnány? chángyòngcí cídi?n (giving the Mandarin name) (??????????). 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 (Y?n B?ny?ng / ???) (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: Hàny? P?ny?n hé Zhèngcíf? / ???????? / ????????), 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 N?iróng (Qian Nairong / ???) of Shanghai University has just issued free software to help with the writing of Shanghainese (???). People may now download the 1.3 MB zip file of the program.

Some examples:

shanghe ??
shanghehhehho ???/???????
whangpugang ???
shyti ??????
makshy ??????
bhakxiang ?????
dangbhang ???????
ghakbhangyhou ????????
cakyhangxiang ???????????
linfhakqin ???(????)
dhaojiangwhu ??????
aoshaoxhin ?????????????
ghe ????
kang ????
yin ??????
dia ?
whakji ??

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

New Folk Old Timers
makshy ??????
bhakxiang ?????
dangbhang ???????
ghakbhangyhou ????????
cakyhangxiang ???????????
linfhakqin ???(????)
mekshy ??????
bhekxian ?????
danbhan ???????
ghakbhanyhou ????????
cekyhanxian ???????????
linfhekqin ???(????)

Here’s a brief story on this:

Xiànzài, w?men zài w?ngluò zh?ng liáoti?n de shíhou yuèláiyuè du? de péngyou d?u k?ish? x?huan yòng Shàngh?ihuà. Dànshì y?ushíhou shìbushì juéde xi?ng bi?odá dehuà bùzh?dào z?nme d?, nòng de y?udi?n bùlúnbùlèi ne? Xiànzài, y? ge k?y? q?ngs?ng d?ch? Shàngh?ihuà de chéngxù ch?lai le.

J?ngguò li?ng nián n?lì, Shàngh?i dàxué Zh?ngwénxì Qián N?iróng jiàoshòu jí t? de yánji?sh?ng hé d?dàng zh?ngyú yú b?nyuè wánchéng le Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? de zhìzuò. Zhíde gu?nzhù de shì, zhè tào sh?rùf? hái b?okuò x?n-l?o li?ng ge b?nb?n, 45 suì y?shàng de l?o Shàngh?i rénhé niánq?ng y? dài de Shàngh?irén d?u k?y? zh?odào zìj? de “d?f?.”

Háishi tóngyàng 26 ge zìm? de jiànpán, 8 yuè 1 rì q? xiàzài le Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? zh?hòu, nín jiù k?y? t?ngguò sh?rù “linfhakqin” d?ch? “l?n wù q?ng,” sh?rù “dhaojiangwhu” d?ch? “táo jiànghu” d?ng yuánzh? yuán wèi de Shàngh?ihuà le. Zuóti?n, jìzh? tíqián xiàzài dào g?i ru?njiàn. Ànzhào sh?yòng shu?míng, yòng quánp?n de f?ngshì chángshì sh?rù “laoselaosy” zhèxi? zìm?, píngmù shàng, lìjí ch?xiàn le “l?o s?nl?o sì” (Shàngh?ihuà, yìsi shì “màil?o, ch?ng l?ochéng de yàngzi”).

Jùx?, yóuyú Shàngh?ihuà y? P?t?nghuà de dúf? y?usu?bùtóng, su?y? zài p?ny?n p?nxi? f?ngshì shàng háishi x?yào sh?yòng shu?míng de b?ngzhù. B?rú jìzh? f?xiàn, fánshì y? P?t?nghuà sh?ngm?, yùnm? xi?ngtóng de zì, zài Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? zh?ng zuìzh?ng yòng de háishi P?t?nghuà p?ny?n, bùtóng de zé c?iyòng Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? de p?nxi? f?ngshì. Rú “chéngu?ng” de “chén,” “hu?tou” de “tóu” d?u f?chéng zhuóy?n, Shàngh?ihuà p?ny?n sh?rùf? zh?ng yàozài sh?ngm? zh?ng ji? y? ge zìm? h, p?nchéng “shen,” “dhou;” fánshì rùsh?ng zì, zé zài p?ny?n hòu ji? zìm?k, rú “báixi?ng” de “bái” jiù p?nchéng bhek.

Bùguò, dàji? bùyào juéde tài nán. Jìzh? f?xiàn, Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? y? P?t?nghuà de sh?rùf? zuìdà xi?ngtóng zh? ch?zài yú, zh?yào liánxù sh?rù sh?ngm? hé yùnm? jiù k?y?, bùx? sh?rù sh?ngdiào. C?wài, Shàngh?ihuà p?ny?n sh?rù xìt?ng háiy?u lèisì “zhìnéng” y?udi?n, k?yòng su?lüè f?ngshì b? cíy? p?nxi? ch?lai.

Zh?chí Shàngh?ihuà sh?rùf? k?if? de Shàngh?i dàxué Zh?ngwénxì Qián N?iróng jiàoshòu gàosu jìzh?, zhè tào sh?rùf? bùj?n néng d?ch? Shàngh?ihuà dà cídi?n zh?ng 15,000 du? ge cítiáo, érqi? hái néng yòng Shàngh?ihuà p?ny?n d?ch? Shàngh?ihuà zh?ng sh?yòng zhe de, y? P?t?nghuà cíyì xi?ngtóng dàn y?y?n bùtóng de chángyòng cíy?. Rú “Huángp? Ji?ng” sh?rù “whangpugang” , “l?xi?ng” zéshì lixiang d?ng, gòngjì 10,000 du? ge cítiáo.


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] 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 (???), 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.

Z?ngt?ng d?ngxu?nrén M? Y?ngji? j?nti?n bàihuì Zhèng-Dà Táiw?n wénxué yánji?su? su?zh?ng Chén F?ngmíng, t? bi?oshì li?ng rén j?nti?n tándào b?nt?huà, zhu?nxíng zhèngyì, b?nt? wénxué, dàxué píng jiàn d?ng yìtí, lìng t? y?u “k?ngg?zúy?n” zh? g?n, li?ng rén h?n du? kànf? d?u bùmóu’érhé, lìrú Chén F?ngmíng rènwéi zh?yòng Zh?ngwén xi?, Héluòhuà niàn, jiùshì Táiy? wénxué, bùy?dìng kèyì yào yòng Luóm?zì, y?n lái p?n.

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.”


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.

“G?ok?o hu?fù 30 nián” zh?tí bàodào tu?ch? hòu, h?n du? dúzh? f? lái diànz? yóujiàn, ji?ngshù d?ngnián de g?ok?o gùshi. Xiányáng Sh?fàn Xuéyuàn Zh?ngwénxì jiàoshòu Zh?ng Huìmín, shì 1977 nián Xiányáng dìq? y?wén yuèjuàn l?osh? zh?y?. D?ngnián, y? fèn wánquán yòng Hàny? P?ny?n wánchéng de y?wén dájuàn ràng t? zhìj?n nánwàng.

D?ngnián, yuèjuàn g?ngzuò k?ish? hòu de dì-s?n ti?n, yuèjuànz? y? l?osh? t?rán j?ngyà de shu?: “Kuài kàn, zhè fèn shìjuàn!” Y? pi?n wánquán yòng Hàny? P?ny?n zuòdá de y?wén shìjuàn chéngxiàn zài dàji? miànqián. Suíhòu, zhè fèn tèsh? de shìjuàn zài quánt? l?osh? zh?ngji?n k?ish? chuányuè. Miànduì zhè y? qíngkuàng, dàji? yìlùnf?nf?n. Y?urén d?ngch?ng bi?oshì: “Ji?nzhí jiùshì húnào, bi?ox?nlìyì, g?i língf?n!” Yuèjuànz? z?zh?ng y? q?ngxiàng g?i yìjian. Dàn Zh?ng Huìmín ji?nchí y?ng xi?n ji?ng k?ojuàn f?nyì chéng Hànzì. “Shuí bù ràng t? zhèyàng dájuàn? G?ok?o bìng méiy?u bùy?n x?yòng Hàny? P?ny?n zuò dá’àn de gu?dìng, kuàngqi? Máo zh?xí z?ojiù zh?shì: ‘Wénzì yào z?u shìjiè gòngtóng P?ny?n de f?ngxiàng.'”

Chénmò le y?huìr zh?hòu, Zh?ng Huìmín yòng jìn bàn ge xi?oshí de shíji?n, g?i zh?ng fèn dájuàn shàng de Hàny? P?ny?n bi?ozhù le Hànzì. Ràng Zh?ng Huìmín nány? wàngjì de shì, nà fèn k?ojuàn, y?njié, sh?ngdiào j?h? méiy?u cuòwù. Jiégu?, zhè fèn fèijìn zh?uzhé de y?wén dájuàn j?ng g? fùzé l?osh? píngyuè hòu, z?ng f?n jìngrán shì 88 f?n. Quánt? yuèjuàn l?osh? d?u bèi zhè wèi k?osh?ng zh?shi de Hàn y?yán g?ngd? su? zhéfú.

source: Y? fèn yòng p?ny?n wánchéng de y?wén shìjuàn (????????????),, March 27, 2007

Orality and textuality in the Indian context: SPP

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Orality and Textuality in the Indian Context (1.7 MB PDF), by Ludo Rocher of the University of Pennsylvania.

An excerpt:

Friedrich Max Müller noted: “We can form no opinion of the power of memory in a state of society so different from ours as the Indian Parishads are from our universities. Feats of memory, such as we hear of now and then, show that our notions of the limits of that faculty are quite arbitrary. Our own memory has been systematically undermined for many generations.” More succinctly, the German indologist Heinrich Lüders described some Indian pandits as “nothing but waking, living text books.”

But Western scholars went further than being amazed. They also raised the question why Indians resort to memorization “even at the present day when manuscripts are neither scarce nor expensive.” Memorization is something one expects in illiterate societies, and that includes India before the introduction of script. But why did Indians continue to memorize so much, even after the time when script came to India?

The age of the introduction of script in India — rather its reintroduction after it disappeared with the Indus Valley Civilization — is still debated, and I will not touch on that problem since it is beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that there are inscriptions, all over the subcontinent, as early as the third century B.C.E., which means that Indians still resort to oral transmission more than two thousand years after they could have resorted to written transmission.

I will argue in this paper that the question of oral transmission versus written transmission in India is far more complex than it has often been presented. There are a number of factors at work, and these factors are different for different branches of the extensive literary legacy of classical India.

This is issue no. 49 of Sino-Platonic Papers. It was originally released in October 1994.