Zhou Youguang writes about Pinyin.info

I’d like to share a note that Zhou Youguang, the father of Pinyin, very generously wrote to me last week.

??Mark Swofford ???????,????????????.???Swofford ?????????! / ?????????? / ?????????? / ??????????? / ??? / 2012-03-02 / ??107?

??Mark Swofford ???????,????????????.???Swofford ?????????!



G?nxiè Mark Swofford xi?nsheng de p?ny?n w?ngzhàn, b? p?ny?n yòngzuò xuéxí Zh?ngwén de g?ngjù. W? zhùhè Swofford xi?nsheng de g?ngzuò huòdé chéngg?ng!

Y?yán sh?rén y?ubié yú qínshòu,
wénzì sh? wénmíng bié yú y?mán,
jiàoyù sh? xi?njìn y?ubié yú luòhòu.

Zh?u Y?ugu?ng
shí nián 107 suì

Five years of Pinyin News

I can’t believe I’ve been doing this so long….

And even at the age of five this blog is considerably younger than most of the rest of Pinyin.info, which I built largely by hand using a text editor. Oh, those were the days. Fortunately, I now have a paid staff of dozens to handle most of the work you see here and a lot more that goes on behind the scenes.

Well, OK, I made that up. It’s still just me, though I really am often busy behind the scenes on Pinyin-related projects or pestering government officials. But it’s a living hobby.

Wiki for collaborative Pinyin projects

I have long wanted to expand the range of materials available in and about Pinyin. Possibilities for projects include:

  • Hanyu Pinyin subtitles for movies and videos
  • Hanyu Pinyin versions of Mandarin plays (for example, Chágu?n, by L?o Sh?)
  • translations into Mandarin (Hanzi and/or Pinyin) of parts of this site

I can do a lot of the work — in fact, as is my habit, I’ve begun all sorts of such projects but haven’t finished them — but can’t do all of it myself. So I’ve been mulling the idea of setting up a Pinyin-related wiki here on Pinyin.info or perhaps on a spinoff site I set up, which would allow you, o reader, to get involved (a little or a lot, depending on your desire and amount of free time).

I’m thinking that texts could be worked on with the aid of Wenlin, since even contributors without the full version of that enormously useful program could use its free demo to select disambiguation choices in cases of word-parsing ambiguities or characters with multiple pronunciations.

For example, if one were using Wenlin to convert the following into Pinyin,


one would first need to choose between potentially ambiguous word boundaries

|? | ? | ?? | ?,?? | ?? | ? | ? | ?? | ??Fix:??? | ?;?? | ??? | ?? | ?,?? | ?? | ? | ??Fix:??? | ?;?? | ??? | ?? | ? | ? | ?? | ? | ???? | ?:?? | ? | ? | ??? | ?,??? | ? | ??? | ?? | ??Fix:??? | ?;?? | ??? | ?;?? | ?? | ? | ?? | ?,? | ? | ? | ? | ?,? | ? | ?? | ??

and then take care of items with multiple pronunciations

W? zài ménglóng ??Fix:?zh?ng;?zhòng?, y?nqián zh?nk?i y? ??Fix:?piàn;?pi?n? h?ibi?n bìl? de sh?dì lái, shàngmian sh?nlán de ti?nk?ng ??Fix:?zh?ng;?zhòng? guàzhe y? lún j?nhuáng de yuányuè. W? xi?ng: x?wàng b?n shì wúsu?wèi y?u, wúsu?wèi ??Fix:?wú;?mó? de. Zhè zhèngrú ??Fix:?dìshang;?dìshàng? de lù; qíshí ??Fix:?dìshang;?dìshàng? b?n méiy?u lù, z?u de rén du? ??Fix:?le;?li?o;?li?o;?liào;?liáo?, y? ??Fix:?biàn;?pián? chéngle lù.

I’d prefer to keep things generally on the right side of copyright laws but am also hopeful that those may not be too onerous in the case of Pinyin versions and that Taiwan’s laws may put the situation more in our favor than might be the case elsewhere. Information about the legal situation would be greatly appreciated.

So, is anyone interested in helping out? Have advice? Success/horror stories about wiki projects? Suggestions for additional material?

Y.R. Chao’s responses to arguments against romanization

Y.R. Chao. Also, FWIW, Wikipedia took this image from Pinyin.Info, not the other way around.Pinyin.Info has a new reading: Responses to objections to romanization, written by the brilliant linguist Y.R. Chao in 1916, when he was a young man of 24.

It’s an unfortunate irony that another writing associated with Chao, the famous “stone lions” (a.k.a. shi, shi, shi) piece, is often mistakenly cited as evidence that the author opposed romanization. In fact, Chao favored using romanization for Mandarin, as his essay reveals.

It’s written in the form of 16 “objections,” each followed by Chao’s reply. For example:

Obj. 8 Alphabetized Chinese loses its etymology.

Rep. 8 This argument is like that often urged against simplified English spelling and is to be met similarly. In actual usage, how much attention do we give to etymology in words like ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, through, draught, etiquette, row, disaster? Of how many of these very common words do you know the original meaning? It is not to be denied, of course, that it is useful to know the etymology of words by looking them up, and our future dictionaries of alphabetized polysyllabic words should no doubt give their derivations.

The etymology of disaster (which is pretty cool) is certainly easy enough for an educated person to guess, if you stop to think about it. But I must admit I never had.

I have added notes following the text.

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.

An apology

Sorry for the horrible state of the coding in my blog recently. WordPress has not acted well since the last upgrade. So far my attempts to fix the situation have been ineffective and, worse still, have made me even slower than usual to respond to e-mail.

I’m working to resolve this.


Sorry not to have been posting more lately. My wife and I have just returned from a three-week visit to the United States. I’m starting to dig my way through a mountain of e-mail and suggestions for entries and will answer everyone as soon as I can.