meeting Zhou Youguang

I’m back from a great trip Beijing. Among the people I was able meet there is Zhōu Yǒuguāng (周有光), 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 “Pīnyīn zhī 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, “Pīnyīn 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 (zhùyīn/註音/注音), which is spelled correctly earlier in the article. Zuiyin (zuìyīn/罪因) is a noun meaning “cause of a crime.”

sources:

Zhou Youguang awarded

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

Dì-wǔ jiè Wú Yùzhāng Jiǎng 31 rì zài Zhōngguó Rénmín Dàxué bānfā, céng cānyù “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn” zhìdìng de “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zhī fù” Zhōu Yǒuguāng huòdé Wú Yùzhāng rénwén shèhuì kēxué jiǎng tè děng jiǎng.

Zhè wèi 102 suì gāolíng de yǔyánxuéjiā yǐ qí sì juǎn běn “Zhōu Yǒuguāng yǔwén lùn jí” huòjiǎng. Tā zǎonián xuéxí jīngjì xué, yè yú cóngshì yǔyán wénzì yánjiū. 1955 nián chūrèn Zhōngguó wénzì gǎigé wěiyuánhuì dì-yī yánjiūshì zhǔrèn, yánjiū wénzì gǎigé hé Hànyǔ Pīnyīn, bìng yú liù nián hòu chūbǎn “Hànzì gǎigé gàilùn,” quánmiàn xì tǒng de lùnshù le Zhōngguó de wénzì gǎigé wèntí. Tā hái cānyù zhìdìng “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn,” cùchéng “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn” chéngwéi yòng Luómǎ zìmǔ pīnxiě Hànyǔ de guójì biāozhǔn, bèi yùwéi “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zhī fù.” Rújīn, zài Měiguó Guóhuì Túshūguǎn lǐ, jì cáng yǒu jīngjìxuéjiā Zhōu Yǒuguāng de zhùzuò, yòu yǒu zuòwéi yǔyán wénzìxué jiā Zhōu Yǒuguāng de zhùzuò.

Zhōu Yǒuguāng zài huòjiǎng gǎnyán zhōng chēng: “Wǒ de sūnnǚ zài xiǎoxué shí duì wǒ shuō, yéye nín kuī le, nín gǎo jīngjì bàntú ér fèi, gǎo yǔwén bànlùchūjiā, liǎng ge bànyuán hé qǐlai shì yī ge líng. Wǒ jīnhòu yào zàicì cóng líng zuòqǐ, hǎohāo xuéxí, lǎodāngyìzhuàng, gǎnshàng shídài. “Yōumò de fāyán yíngdé quánchǎng chíjiǔ de zhǎngshēng.

Jùxī, Zhōu Yǒuguāng 83 suì shí “huàn bǐ” yòng diànnǎo gōngzuò, 98 suì kāishǐ chàngdǎo “jīchǔ Huáwén” yùndòng, 100 suì, 101 suì, 102 suì shí jūn yǒu zhùzuò chūbǎn.

Tóngshí huòdé tèděng jiǎng de háiyǒu Zhōngguó Rénmín Dàxué jiàoshòu, zhùmíng fǎxuéjiā Xǔ Chóngdé. Xǔ Chóngdé céng cānyù qǐcǎo 1954 nián xiànfǎ, 1982 nián xiànfǎ, “Xiāng Gǎng tèqū jīběnfǎ” hé “Àomén tèqū jīběnfǎ” sìbù fǎ lǜ, jiànzhèng le Zhōngguó xiànzhèng fāzhǎn jìnchéng. Tā de huòjiǎng zhùzuò wèi “Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó xiànfǎ shǐ.”

Cǐwài, běn cì Wú Yùzhāng rénwén shèhuì kēxué jiǎng hái bānfā yīděng jiǎng 12 xiàng, yōuxiù jiǎng 25 xiàng.

Wú Yùzhāng rénwén shèhuì kēxué jiǎng yóu Wú Yùzhāng jījīn shèlì, miànxiàng quánguó jiǎnglì guónèi yǒu zhòngdà yǐngxiǎng de yōuxiù zhé xué shèhuì kēxué lùnzhù. Jù Wú Yùzhāng jījīn wěiyuánhuì zhǔrèn wěiyuán, Zhōngguó Rénmín Dàxué yuán xiàozhǎng Yuán Bǎohuà jièshào, zhèige jiǎng xiàng měi wǔ nián píngxuǎn yīcì, xiàn píngjiǎng xuékē wèi Mǎkèsīzhǔyì lǐlùn, zhéxué, jiàoyùxué, lì shǐxué, Zhōngguó chuántǒng wénhuà yǔ yǔyán wénzìxué, xīnwénxué, jīngjìxué hé fǎxué děng bā ge xuékē, měi ge xuékē shè tèděng jiǎng, yīděng jiǎng jí yōuxiù jiǎng. Zì 1987 nián zhìjīn, zhèige jiǎng yǐ bānfā wǔ jiè, Guō Mòruò, Lǚ Shūxiāng, Hú Shéng, Wáng Lì děng xiān-hòu huòjiǎng, yǐ chéngwéi quánguóxìng zhéxué shèhuì kēxué yánjiū guīgé jiào gāo de jiǎnglì.

Wú Yùzhāng jījīn yóu Zhōngguó Rénmín Dàxué shèlì, yǐ jìniàn wúchǎn jiējí gémìngjiā, jiàoyùjiā, lìshǐxuéjiā, yǔ yán wénzìxué jiā, Rénmín Dàxué dì-yī rèn xiàozhǎng Wú Yùzhāng.

source: ‘Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zhī fù’ huò Wú Yùzhāng rénwén shèhuì kēxué jiǎng (“漢語拼音之父”獲吳玉章人文社會科學獎), Xinhua, November 1, 2007

further reading:

Happy 101st birthday, Zhou Youguang!

Friday, January 13, is Zhou Youguang’s 101st birthday. Zhou is one of the main people behind the creation of Hanyu Pinyin. Remarkably, he did not become involved with language work until he was in his late forties — something I’ve always found a source of inspiration.

Pinyin Info has several readings by Zhou Youguang (周有光) from his book The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts. (The English translations are by Zhang Liqing, who has also translated an important imaginary dialogue on romanization; this will soon be featured here.)

For more (in Mandarin), see the entry for Zhou Youguang’s 100th birthday.

Here are some of Zhou Youguang’s books:

Happy 100th birthday, Zhou Youguang!

Zhou Youguang is one of the main people behind the development of Hanyu Pinyin.

周有光 今天100岁(组图)
2005年01月14日04:00 人民网-人民日报
周有光 今天100岁(组图)
周有光和陪伴了他十多年的“小电脑”。

  本报记者 施芳摄

  本报记者 施芳

  1月13日,属蛇的周有光整整100岁了。

  11日下午,我如约叩开北京后拐棒胡同一处朴素的寓所时,先生正安静地坐在 一张老式的、略显斑驳的书桌前,脸上露出如孩童般明净的笑容。

  “我身体还好,就是耳背,你说话的时候大点声,说慢点。”先生一边说一边戴 上了助听器。

  我们的谈话就这样开始了,我几乎是趴在他耳朵上说的,然而交流并不困难, 他思路敏捷,每每说出一些颇有见地的话,让我这个年轻人自叹弗如。

  50岁,从经济学到语言学

  谈话从先生改行说起。1955年10月,时任复旦大学经济学教授的周有光到北京 参加全国文字会议,为期一个月的会议结束后,组织上通知他到中国文字改革委员 会工作。

  这真是一件出乎意料的事,他连连说:“我业余搞文字研究,是外行。”委员会 主任吴玉章回答说“这是一项新的工作,大家都是外行。”消息传出,朋友们纷纷相 劝:“经济学多重要啊,语言学可是小儿科。”“哪里需要哪里去”———凭着一份朴素 的热情,在50岁的时候,周有光乐呵呵地扔下经济学,半路出家一头扎进语言学中。

  从此中国少了一位经济学家,多了一位著作等身的语言学家。在美国国会图书 馆里,如今既藏有经济学家周有光的著作,又有作为语言文字学家周有光的著作。

  说来难以置信,身为语言文字学家,周有光却没有接受过一天专业教育。他在 读大学时,上海正兴起拉丁化新文字运动。周有光觉得好玩,就写了一篇题为《关 于语法问题》的文章,投给《语文》杂志,没想到不久后就刊登出来了。此后他便孜 孜不倦地致力于汉语拼音化的研究,成为享誉中外的语言学家。

  83岁,“换笔”用电脑

  书桌旁,摆放着用花布包裹着的一样东西。先生指着说:“喏,写文章全靠它 了。”小心地打开包裹,里面是一台陈旧的WL—1000C中西文文字处理机。那是1988 年4月,先生83岁时日本夏普公司送来的礼物。从此,先生便用它写文章、写信。

  高龄“换笔”之后,先生开始关注汉字在计算机中的输入输出问题。在他看来, 汉语拼音输入法,不用编码,就可以输出汉字,值得大力推广。“改进电脑输入方 法,效率可以提高5倍,这是件大事。”

  98岁,倡导“基础华文”运动

  周老的重孙周安迪在美国读小学六年级,会说汉语,却几乎不会书写。于是, 在98岁高龄的时候,先生倡导发起了“基础华文”运动。在《提倡“基础华文”缘起》一 文中,先生言辞切切地写道:全世界华侨估计有5000万以上,能否使华文简易一 些,方便他们用较少的时间,得到较多的华夏文化享受?可以设计一种简易的华 文,作为进入华夏文化宝库的第一个台阶。

  “开阔的世界眼光和深邃的历史眼光”———这是后学者对先生的评价。当世界各 地出现了“汉语热”时,一些人推断21世纪将是汉语的世纪,先生保持了相当的冷 静:“汉语的国际地位,应当作恰如其分的正确估计。汉语的国际性最弱,这是很 多中国人不愿意承认的,但是,不承认并不能改变事实。要想改变事实,只有改变 汉语本身,提高汉语的规范化水平。”

  临走时,先生拿了与他相濡以沫70年、于2002年先他而去的老伴张允和的遗作 《最后的闺秀》送给我。那天是1月11日,离先生的百岁生日还有两天。

  周有光,著名语言文字学家。1923年—1927年就读于上海圣约翰大学和光华大 学,解放前曾任上海复旦大学经济研究所教授,从事金融研究。他同时对语言学产 生兴趣,利用业余时间潜心研究汉语拼音,1952年出版了《中国拼音文字研究》。 1955年到北京中国文字改革委员会参加拟定拼音方案,该方案1958年正式公布。出 版《汉字改革概论》、《比较文字学初探》等20多种书籍。