Pinyin

Hanyu Pinyin (simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音; traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音; pinyin: hànyǔ pīnyīn), often shortened to just pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Mandarin Chinese in Mainland China, and to some extent, in Taiwan and Singapore. It is often used to teach Mandarin, which is normally written using Chinese characters, to learners who are already familiar with the Latin alphabet. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones, but pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written in the Latin script, and is also used in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters. The word Hànyǔ (simplified Chinese: 汉语; traditional Chinese: 漢語) literally means "Han language" (i.e. Chinese language), while Pīnyīn (拼音) means "spelled sounds".[1]

Hanyu Pinyin
汉语拼音, 漢語拼音
Script type romanization
Created1950s
LanguagesStandard Chinese
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Pinyin
Table of Hanyu Pinyin syllables, which includes 23 initials (top) and 24 finals (bottom)
Chinese拼音
Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet
Simplified Chinese汉语拼音方案
Traditional Chinese漢語拼音方案

The pinyin system was developed in the 1950s by a group of Chinese linguists including Zhou Youguang[2] and was based on earlier forms of romanizations of Chinese. It was published by the Chinese Government in 1958 and revised several times.[3] The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as an international standard in 1982[4] and was followed by the United Nations in 1986.[2] Attempts to make pinyin standard in Taiwan occurred in 2002 and 2009, but "today Taiwan has no standardized spelling system" so that in 2019 "alphabetic spellings in Taiwan are marked more by a lack of system than the presence of one".[5][6][7] Moreover, "some cities, businesses, and organizations, notably in the south of Taiwan, did not accept [efforts to introduce pinyin], as it suggested that Taiwan is more closely tied to the PRC", so it remains one of several rival romanization systems in use.[8]

When a foreign writing system with one set of coding/decoding system is taken to write a language, certain compromises may have to be made. The result is that the decoding systems used in some foreign languages will enable non-native speakers to produce sounds more closely resembling the target language than will the coding/decoding system used by other foreign languages. Native speakers of English will decode pinyin spellings to fairly close approximations of Mandarin except in the case of certain speech sounds that are not ordinarily produced by most native speakers of English: j //, q /tɕʰ/, x /ɕ/, z /ts/, c /tsʰ/, zh /ʈʂ/, ch /ʈʂʰ/, h /x/ and r /ɻ/ exhibiting the greatest discrepancies.

In this system, the correspondence between the Latin letters and the sound is sometimes idiosyncratic, though not necessarily more so than the way the Latin script is employed in other languages. For example, the aspiration distinction between b, d, g and p, t, k is similar to that of these syllable-initial consonants English (in which the two sets are however also differentiated by voicing), but not to that of French. Letters z and c also have that distinction, pronounced as [ts] and [tsʰ] (which is reminiscent of these letters being used to represent the phoneme /ts/ in the German language and Latin-script-using Slavic languages, respectively). From s, z, c come the digraphs sh, zh, ch by analogy with English sh, ch. Although this introduces the novel combination zh, it is internally consistent in how the two series are related. In the x, j, q series, the pinyin use of x is similar to its use in Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Basque and Maltese and the pinyin q is akin to its value in Albanian; both pinyin and Albanian pronunciations may sound similar to the ch to the untrained ear. Pinyin vowels are pronounced in a similar way to vowels in Romance languages.

The pronunciation and spelling of Chinese words are generally given in terms of initials and finals, which represent the segmental phonemic portion of the language, rather than letter by letter. Initials are initial consonants, while finals are all possible combinations of medials (semivowels coming before the vowel), a nucleus vowel and coda (final vowel or consonant).


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