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

Zhou Youguang on politics

The New York Times has just published a profile of Zhou Youguang, who is often called “the father of Pinyin” (though he modestly prefers to stress that others worked with him): A Chinese Voice of Dissent That Took Its Time.

This profile focuses not only on Zhou’s role in the creation of Hanyu Pinyin but also on his political views, which he has become increasingly public with.

About Mao, he said in an interview: “I deny he did any good.” About the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre: “I am sure one day justice will be done.” About popular support for the Communist Party: “The people have no freedom to express themselves, so we cannot know.”

As for fostering creativity in the Communist system, Mr. Zhou had this to say, in a 2010 book of essays: “Inventions are flowers that grow out of the soil of freedom. Innovation and invention don’t grow out of the government’s orders.”

No sooner had the first batch of copies been printed than the book was banned in China.

Although the reporter’s assertion, following the PRC’s official figures, that “China all but stamp[ed] out illiteracy” is well wide of the mark, there is no denying Pinyin’s crucial role in this area. I recommend reading the whole article.

Zhou Youguang

Zhou Youguang on NPR

Louisa Lim had a story on National Public Radio yesterday about Zhou Youguang (??? / Zh?u Y?ugu?ng), who’s often referred to as the father of Pinyin.

Most stories in the mass media about him focus on just two things, which might be summarized as “pinyin” and “wow, he’s really old.” This story, however, draws welcome notice to some some other things about him, as the title reveals: At 105, Chinese Linguist Now A Government Critic. (There’s a link to the audio version near the top of the page. Zhou can be heard in the background speaking Mandarin — though his English is excellent.)

The article also provides a link to his blog: B?isuì xuérén Zh?u Y?ugu?ng de bó kè (??????????).

Further reading:

Hat tip to John Rohsenow.

photo of Zhou Youguang signing a book for me

? vs. a

image of the rounded 'a' and the normal 'a' with the example given of the word 'Hanyu' (with tone marks)About a year ago (which is roughly how overdue this post is), a commenter noted that some Chinese publishers “are convinced that Pinyin must be printed with ? (single-story „Latin alpha“, as opposed to double-story a), and with ? (single story; not double story g).”

But does Hanyu Pinyin in fact call for this longstanding Chinese habit of bad typography? This was one of the first questions I asked of Zhou Youguang, the father of Hanyu Pinyin, when I met with him: Are those who insist upon the ?-style letter correct?

“Oh, no,” Zhou replied. “That ‘?’ is just for babies!” And he laughed that wonderful laugh of his that no doubt has contributed to his remarkable longevity.

Zhou was referring to the facts that the “?” style of letter is usually found specifically in books for infants … and that this style generally does not belong elsewhere. In fact, ? and ? (written thusly) are often referred to as infant characters. A variant of the letter y is sometimes included in this set.

Letters in that style are also found in the West — but almost always in books for toddlers, and often not even in those. Furthermore, even in those cases the use of such letters appears to have no positive effect on children’s reading.

The correct-style letters for Pinyin are the same as those for English, Zhou stated.

I hope that anyone who has been using “?” will both officially and in practice switch to “a”. It’s long past time that the supposed rule calling for “?” was treated as a dead letter.

Long live good typography!

books bought in Beijing

cover of a book by Zhou YouguangI didn’t have any luck finding anything in Sin Wenz (L?d?nghuà X?n Wénzì / ??????), despite trips to several large used book stores. (Fortunately, the Internet is now providing some leads. Thanks, Brendan and Joel!) But I did find some other books to bring home.

I acquired lots of books by Zhou Youguang, not all of which focus primarily on linguistics:

Other than the Zhou Youguang books, here are my favorite finds of the trip, as they are for the most part in correctly word-parsed Hanyu Pinyin (with Hanzi underneath), along with a few notes in English:

I’ll soon be posting more about the above books with Pinyin, so watch this site for updates. Really, this is gonna be good.

Although this collection of Y.R. Chao says it’s volume 15, it’s actually two books:

  • Zhào Yuánrèn quánjí, dì 15 juàn (??????15?)

Some more titles:

  • Measured Words: The Development of Objective Language Testing, by Bernard Spolsky
  • P?t?nghuà shu?píng cèshì shísh? g?ngyào (???????????). Now with the great smell of beer! Sorry, Brendan, I owe you one — more than one, actually.

The following I bought because Yin Binyong, the scholar primarily responsible for Hanyu Pinyin’s orthography, is the author of these titles from Sinolingua’s series of Bóg?t?ngj?n xué Hàny? cóngsh? (“Gems of the Chinese Language through the Ages” (their translation)), all of which are in Mandarin (Hanzi) and English, with Pinyin only for the sayings being illustrated:

cover of 'Chinese-English Dictionary of Polyphonic Characters' (?????????)cover of 'Putonghua shuiping ceshi shishi gangyao' (???????????)cover of 'Xinhua pinxie cidian'


And finally:

Of course I already have that one — more than one copy, in fact. But it’s always good to have more than one spare when it comes to one of the two most important books on Pinyin orthography. I really need to follow up on my requests to use excerpts from this book, as it is the only major title missing from my list of romanization-related books (though it’s in Mandarin only).

sign in a Beijing bookstore reading 'Education Theury' [sic]

meeting Zhou Youguang

I’m back from a great trip Beijing. Among the people I was able meet there is Zh?u Y?ugu?ng (???), who is often referred to as the father of Hanyu Pinyin.

I’m pleased to report that even though he is well beyond 100 years old, he remains sharp, in amazingly good health, and in good humor. I’ll be reporting later on what he had to say during our meeting. But since that lasted several hours, I won’t try to cover everything in one post; instead, I’ll break it up into lots of smaller posts over the next few weeks.

For now, here’s a photo I took of him on Sunday afternoon.

Hanyu Pinyin creator Zhou Youguang (???) at his desk, autographing a book

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.”


Zhou Youguang awarded

Zhou Youguang, often called the father of Hanyu Pinyin, has received another award.

Dì-w? jiè Wú Yùzh?ng Ji?ng 31 rì zài Zh?ngguó Rénmín Dàxué b?nf?, céng c?nyù “Hàny? P?ny?n F?ng’àn” zhìdìng de “Hàny? P?ny?n zh? fù” Zh?u Y?ugu?ng huòdé Wú Yùzh?ng rénwén shèhuì k?xué ji?ng tè d?ng ji?ng.

Zhè wèi 102 suì g?olíng de y?yánxuéji? y? qí sì ju?n b?n “Zh?u Y?ugu?ng y?wén lùn jí” huòji?ng. T? z?onián xuéxí j?ngjì xué, yè yú cóngshì y?yán wénzì yánji?. 1955 nián ch?rèn Zh?ngguó wénzì g?igé w?iyuánhuì dì-y? yánji?shì zh?rèn, yánji? wénzì g?igé hé Hàny? P?ny?n, bìng yú liù nián hòu ch?b?n “Hànzì g?igé gàilùn,” quánmiàn xì t?ng de lùnshù le Zh?ngguó de wénzì g?igé wèntí. T? hái c?nyù zhìdìng “Hàny? P?ny?n F?ng’àn,” cùchéng “Hàny? P?ny?n F?ng’àn” chéngwéi yòng Luóm? zìm? p?nxi? Hàny? de guójì bi?ozh?n, bèi yùwéi “Hàny? P?ny?n zh? fù.” Rúj?n, zài M?iguó Guóhuì Túsh?gu?n l?, jì cáng y?u j?ngjìxuéji? Zh?u Y?ugu?ng de zhùzuò, yòu y?u zuòwéi y?yán wénzìxué ji? Zh?u Y?ugu?ng de zhùzuò.

Zh?u Y?ugu?ng zài huòji?ng g?nyán zh?ng ch?ng: “W? de s?nn? zài xi?oxué shí duì w? shu?, yéye nín ku? le, nín g?o j?ngjì bàntú ér fèi, g?o y?wén bànlùch?ji?, li?ng ge bànyuán hé q?lai shì y? ge líng. W? j?nhòu yào zàicì cóng líng zuòq?, h?oh?o xuéxí, l?od?ngyìzhuàng, g?nshàng shídài. “Y?umò de f?yán yíngdé quánch?ng chíji? de zh?ngsh?ng.

Jùx?, Zh?u Y?ugu?ng 83 suì shí “huàn b?” yòng diànn?o g?ngzuò, 98 suì k?ish? chàngd?o “j?ch? Huáwén” yùndòng, 100 suì, 101 suì, 102 suì shí j?n y?u zhùzuò ch?b?n.

Tóngshí huòdé tèd?ng ji?ng de háiy?u Zh?ngguó Rénmín Dàxué jiàoshòu, zhùmíng f?xuéji? X? Chóngdé. X? Chóngdé céng c?nyù q?c?o 1954 nián xiànf?, 1982 nián xiànf?, “Xi?ng G?ng tèq? j?b?nf?” hé “Àomén tèq? j?b?nf?” sìbù f? l?, jiànzhèng le Zh?ngguó xiànzhèng f?zh?n jìnchéng. T? de huòji?ng zhùzuò wèi “Zh?nghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó xiànf? sh?.”

C?wài, b?n cì Wú Yùzh?ng rénwén shèhuì k?xué ji?ng hái b?nf? y?d?ng ji?ng 12 xiàng, y?uxiù ji?ng 25 xiàng.

Wú Yùzh?ng rénwén shèhuì k?xué ji?ng yóu Wú Yùzh?ng j?j?n shèlì, miànxiàng quánguó ji?nglì guónèi y?u zhòngdà y?ngxi?ng de y?uxiù zhé xué shèhuì k?xué lùnzhù. Jù Wú Yùzh?ng j?j?n w?iyuánhuì zh?rèn w?iyuán, Zh?ngguó Rénmín Dàxué yuán xiàozh?ng Yuán B?ohuà jièshào, zhèige ji?ng xiàng m?i w? nián píngxu?n y?cì, xiàn píngji?ng xuék? wèi M?kès?zh?yì l?lùn, zhéxué, jiàoyùxué, lì sh?xué, Zh?ngguó chuánt?ng wénhuà y? y?yán wénzìxué, x?nwénxué, j?ngjìxué hé f?xué d?ng b? ge xuék?, m?i ge xuék? shè tèd?ng ji?ng, y?d?ng ji?ng jí y?uxiù ji?ng. Zì 1987 nián zhìj?n, zhèige ji?ng y? b?nf? w? jiè, Gu? Mòruò, L? Sh?xi?ng, Hú Shéng, Wáng Lì d?ng xi?n-hòu huòji?ng, y? chéngwéi quánguóxìng zhéxué shèhuì k?xué yánji? gu?gé jiào g?o de ji?nglì.

Wú Yùzh?ng j?j?n yóu Zh?ngguó Rénmín Dàxué shèlì, y? jìniàn wúch?n ji?jí gémìngji?, jiàoyùji?, lìsh?xuéji?, y? yán wénzìxué ji?, Rénmín Dàxué dì-y? rèn xiàozh?ng Wú Yùzh?ng.

source: ‘Hàny? P?ny?n zh? fù’ huò Wú Yùzh?ng rénwén shèhuì k?xué ji?ng (“??????”???????????), Xinhua, November 1, 2007

further reading: