The official Chinese romanization of Mandarin in the People's Republic of China
Top 10 Pinyin related articles
- 1 History
- 2 Initials and finals
- 3 Tones
- 4 Orthographic rules
- 5 Comparison with other orthographies
- 6 Unicode code points
- 7 Usage
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
|Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet|
Hanyu Pinyin (simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音; traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音; pinyin: Hànyǔ Pīnyīn), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC),[note 1] and Singapore.[note 2] It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.
The pinyin system was developed in the 1950s by a group of Chinese linguists including Zhou Youguang and was based on earlier forms of romanizations of Chinese. It was published by the Chinese government in 1958 and revised several times. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as an international standard in 1982 and was followed by the United Nations in 1986. 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." 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.
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 /tɕ/, q /tɕʰ/, x /ɕ/, z /ts/, c /tsʰ/, zh /ʈʂ/, h /x/ and r /ɻ/ exhibiting the greatest discrepancies.
In this system, the correspondence between the Roman letter 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).
Pinyin Intro articles: 37
Background: romanization of Chinese before 1949
In 1605, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci published Xizi Qiji (《西字奇蹟》; Xīzì Qíjī; Hsi-tzu Ch'i-chi; 'Miracle of Western Letters') in Beijing. This was the first book to use the Roman alphabet to write the Chinese language. Twenty years later, another Jesuit in China, Nicolas Trigault, issued his Xī Rú Ěrmù Zī (《西儒耳目資》; Hsi Ju Erh-mu Tzu; 'Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati') at Hangzhou. Neither book had much immediate impact on the way in which Chinese thought about their writing system, and the romanizations they described were intended more for Westerners than for the Chinese.
The first late Qing reformer to propose that China adopt a system of spelling was Song Shu (1862–1910). A student of the great scholars Yu Yue and Zhang Taiyan, Song had been to Japan and observed the stunning effect of the kana syllabaries and Western learning there. This galvanized him into activity on a number of fronts, one of the most important being reform of the script. While Song did not himself actually create a system for spelling Sinitic languages, his discussion proved fertile and led to a proliferation of schemes for phonetic scripts.
The Wade–Giles system was produced by Thomas Wade in 1859, and further improved by Herbert Giles in the Chinese–English Dictionary of 1892. It was popular and used in English-language publications outside China until 1979.
In the early 1930s, Communist Party of China leaders trained in Moscow introduced a phonetic alphabet using Roman letters which had been developed in the Soviet Oriental Institute of Leningrad and was originally intended to improve literacy in the Russian Far East.[note 3] This Sin Wenz or "New Writing" was much more linguistically sophisticated than earlier alphabets, but with the major exception that it did not indicate tones of Chinese.
In 1940, several thousand members attended a Border Region Sin Wenz Society convention. Mao Zedong and Zhu De, head of the army, both contributed their calligraphy (in characters) for the masthead of the Sin Wenz Society's new journal. Outside the CCP, other prominent supporters included Dr. Sun Yat-sen's son, Sun Fo; Cai Yuanpei, the country's most prestigious educator; Tao Xingzhi, a leading educational reformer; and Lu Xun. Over thirty journals soon appeared written in Sin Wenz, plus large numbers of translations, biographies (including Lincoln, Franklin, Edison, Ford, and Charlie Chaplin), some contemporary Chinese literature, and a spectrum of textbooks. In 1940, the movement reached an apex when Mao's Border Region Government declared that the Sin Wenz had the same legal status as traditional characters in government and public documents. Many educators and political leaders looked forward to the day when they would be universally accepted and completely replace Chinese characters. Opposition arose, however, because the system was less well adapted to writing regional languages, and therefore would require learning Mandarin. Sin Wenz fell into relative disuse during the following years.
In 1943, the U.S. military engaged Yale University to develop a romanization of Mandarin Chinese for its pilots flying over China. The resulting system is very close to pinyin, but does not use English letters in unfamiliar ways; for example, pinyin x for [ɕ] is written as sy in the Yale system. Medial semivowels are written with y and w (instead of pinyin i and u), and apical vowels (syllabic consonants) with r or z. Accent marks are used to indicate tone.
Emergence and history of Hanyu Pinyin
Pinyin was created by Chinese linguists, like Zhou Youguang who was an economist, as part of a Chinese government project in the 1950s. Zhou, often called "the father of pinyin," worked as a banker in New York when he decided to return to China to help rebuild the country after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. He became an economics professor in Shanghai, and in 1955, when China's Ministry of Education created a Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language, Premier Zhou Enlai assigned Zhou Youguang the task of developing a new romanization system, despite the fact that he was not a professional linguist.
Hanyu Pinyin was based on several existing systems: Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz of 1931, and the diacritic markings from zhuyin (bopomofo). "I'm not the father of pinyin," Zhou said years later; "I'm the son of pinyin. It's [the result of] a long tradition from the later years of the Qing dynasty down to today. But we restudied the problem and revisited it and made it more perfect."
A draft was published on February 12, 1956. The first edition of Hanyu Pinyin was approved and adopted at the Fifth Session of the 1st National People's Congress on February 11, 1958. It was then introduced to primary schools as a way to teach Standard Chinese pronunciation and used to improve the literacy rate among adults.
During the height of the Cold War, the use of pinyin system over the Yale romanization outside of China was regarded as a political statement or identification with the communist Chinese regime. Beginning in the early 1980s, Western publications addressing Mainland China began using the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system instead of earlier romanization systems; this change followed the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the PRC in 1979. In 2001, the PRC Government issued the National Common Language Law, providing a legal basis for applying pinyin. The current specification of the orthographic rules is laid down in the National Standard GB/T 16159–2012.
Pinyin History articles: 38
Initials and finals
Unlike European languages, clusters of letters — initials (声母; 聲母; shēngmǔ) and finals (韵母; 韻母; yùnmǔ) — and not consonant and vowel letters, form the fundamental elements in pinyin (and most other phonetic systems used to describe the Han language). Every Mandarin syllable can be spelled with exactly one initial followed by one final, except for the special syllable er or when a trailing -r is considered part of a syllable (see below, and see erhua). The latter case, though a common practice in some sub-dialects, is rarely used in official publications.
Even though most initials contain a consonant, finals are not always simple vowels, especially in compound finals (复韵母; 複韻母; fùyùnmǔ), i.e. when a "medial" is placed in front of the final. For example, the medials [i] and [u] are pronounced with such tight openings at the beginning of a final that some native Chinese speakers (especially when singing) pronounce yī (衣, clothes, officially pronounced /í/) as /jí/ and wéi (围; 圍, to enclose, officially pronounced /uěi/) as /wěi/ or /wuěi/. Often these medials are treated as separate from the finals rather than as part of them; this convention is followed in the chart of finals below.
In each cell below, the bold letters indicate pinyin and the brackets enclose the symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet.
1 y is pronounced [ɥ] (a labial-palatal approximant) before u.
2 The letters w and y are not included in the table of initials in the official pinyin system. They are an orthographic convention for the medials i, u and ü when no initial is present. When i, u, or ü are finals and no initial is present, they are spelled yi, wu, and yu, respectively.
b p m f d t n l g k h j q x zh ch sh r z c s
According to Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, zh, ch, and sh can be abbreviated as ẑ, ĉ, and ŝ (z, c, s with a circumflex). However, the shorthands are rarely used due to difficulty of entering them on computers and are confined mainly to Esperanto keyboard layouts.
In each cell below, the first line indicates IPA, the second indicates pinyin for a standalone (no-initial) form, and the third indicates pinyin for a combination with an initial. Other than finals modified by an -r, which are omitted, the following is an exhaustive table of all possible finals.1
The only syllable-final consonants in Standard Chinese are -n and -ng, and -r, the last of which is attached as a grammatical suffix. A Chinese syllable ending with any other consonant either is from a non-Mandarin language (a southern Chinese language such as Cantonese, or a minority language of China; possibly reflecting final consonants in Old Chinese), or indicates the use of a non-pinyin romanization system (where final consonants may be used to indicate tones).
1 [aɚ̯] is written er. For other finals formed by the suffix -r, pinyin does not use special orthography; one simply appends r to the final that it is added to, without regard for any sound changes that may take place along the way. For information on sound changes related to final r, please see Erhua#Rules.
2 ü is written as u after y, j, q, or x.
3 uo is written as o after b, p, m, f, or w.
Technically, i, u, ü without a following vowel are finals, not medials, and therefore take the tone marks, but they are more concisely displayed as above. In addition, ê [ɛ] (欸; 誒) and syllabic nasals m (呒, 呣), n (嗯, 唔), ng (嗯, 𠮾) are used as interjections.
According to Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, ng can be abbreviated with a shorthand of ŋ. However, this shorthand is rarely used due to difficulty of entering them on computers.
The ü sound
An umlaut is placed over the letter u when it occurs after the initials l and n when necessary in order to represent the sound [y]. This is necessary in order to distinguish the front high rounded vowel in lü (e.g. 驴; 驢; 'donkey') from the back high rounded vowel in lu (e.g. 炉; 爐; 'oven'). Tonal markers are added on top of the umlaut, as in lǘ.
However, the ü is not used in the other contexts where it could represent a front high rounded vowel, namely after the letters j, q, x, and y. For example, the sound of the word 鱼/魚 (fish) is transcribed in pinyin simply as yú, not as yǘ. This practice is opposed to Wade–Giles, which always uses ü, and Tongyong Pinyin, which always uses yu. Whereas Wade–Giles needs the umlaut to distinguish between chü (pinyin ju) and chu (pinyin zhu), this ambiguity does not arise with pinyin, so the more convenient form ju is used instead of jü. Genuine ambiguities only happen with nu/nü and lu/lü, which are then distinguished by an umlaut.
Many fonts or output methods do not support an umlaut for ü or cannot place tone marks on top of ü. Likewise, using ü in input methods is difficult because it is not present as a simple key on many keyboard layouts. For these reasons v is sometimes used instead by convention. For example, it is common for cellphones to use v instead of ü. Additionally, some stores in China use v instead of ü in the transliteration of their names. The drawback is that there are no tone marks for the letter v.
This also presents a problem in transcribing names for use on passports, affecting people with names that consist of the sound lü or nü, particularly people with the surname 吕 (Lǚ), a fairly common surname, particularly compared to the surnames 陆 (Lù), 鲁 (Lǔ), 卢 (Lú) and 路 (Lù). Previously, the practice varied among different passport issuing offices, with some transcribing as "LV" and "NV" while others used "LU" and "NU". On 10 July 2012, the Ministry of Public Security standardized the practice to use "LYU" and "NYU" in passports.
Although nüe written as nue, and lüe written as lue are not ambiguous, nue or lue are not correct according to the rules; nüe and lüe should be used instead. However, some Chinese input methods (e.g. Microsoft Pinyin IME) support both nve/lve (typing v for ü) and nue/lue.
Approximation from English pronunciation
Most rules given here in terms of English pronunciation are approximations, as several of these sounds do not correspond directly to sounds in English.
Pronunciation of initials
|b||[p]||spark||unaspirated p, as in spark|
|p||[pʰ]||pay||strongly aspirated p, as in pit|
|m||[m]||may||as in English mummy|
|f||[f]||fair||as in English fun|
|d||[t]||stop||unaspirated t, as in stop|
|t||[tʰ]||take||strongly aspirated t, as in top|
|n||[n]||nay||as in English nit|
|l||[l]||lay||as in English love|
|g||[k]||skill||unaspirated k, as in skill|
|k||[kʰ]||kay||strongly aspirated k, as in kill|
|h||[x], [h]||loch||Varies between hat and Scottish loch.|
|j||[tɕ]||churchyard||Alveo-palatal. No equivalent in English, but similar to an unaspirated "-chy-" sound when said quickly. Like q, but unaspirated. Is similar to the English name of the letter G, but curl the tip of the tongue downwards to stick it at the back of the teeth.|
|q||[tɕʰ]||punch yourself||Alveo-palatal. No equivalent in English. Like punch yourself, with the lips spread wide as when one says ee. Curl the tip of the tongue downwards to stick it at the back of the teeth and strongly aspirate.|
|x||[ɕ]||push yourself||Alveo-palatal. No equivalent in English. Like -sh y-, with the lips spread as when one says ee and with the tip of the tongue curled downwards and stuck to the back of the teeth.|
|zh||[ʈʂ]||nurture||Unaspirated ch. Similar to hatching but retroflex, or marching in American English. Voiced in a toneless syllable.|
|ch||[ʈʂʰ]||church||Similar to chin, but retroflex.|
|sh||[ʂ]||shirt||Similar to shoe but retroflex, or marsh in American English.|
|r||[ɻ~ʐ]||ray||No equivalent in English, but similar to a sound between r in reduce and s in measure but with the tongue curled upward against the top of the mouth (i.e. retroflex).|
|z||[ts]||pizza||unaspirated c, similar to something between suds but voiceless, unless in a toneless syllable.|
|c||[tsʰ]||hats||like the English ts in cats, but strongly aspirated, very similar to the Czech, Polish, Esperanto, and Slovak c.|
|s||[s]||say||as in sun|
|w||[w]||way||as in water. Before an e or a it is sometimes pronounced like v as in violin.*|
|y||[j], [ɥ]||yes||as in yes. Before a u, pronounced with rounded lips, as if pronouncing German ü.*|
- * Note on y and w
Y and w are equivalent to the semivowel medials i, u, and ü (see below). They are spelled differently when there is no initial consonant in order to mark a new syllable: fanguan is fan-guan, while fangwan is fang-wan (and equivalent to *fang-uan). With this convention, an apostrophe only needs to be used to mark an initial a, e, or o: Xi'an (two syllables: [ɕi.an]) vs. xian (one syllable: [ɕi̯ɛn]). In addition, y and w are added to fully vocalic i, u, and ü when these occur without an initial consonant, so that they are written yi, wu, and yu. Some Mandarin speakers do pronounce a [j] or [w] sound at the beginning of such words—that is, yi [i] or [ji], wu [u] or [wu], yu [y] or [ɥy],—so this is an intuitive convention. See below for a few finals which are abbreviated after a consonant plus w/u or y/i medial: wen → C+un, wei → C+ui, weng → C+ong, and you → C+iu.
- ** Note on the apostrophe
The apostrophe (') (隔音符号; 隔音符號; géyīn fúhào; 'syllable-dividing mark') is used before a syllable starting with a vowel (a, o, or e) in a multiple-syllable word when the syllable does not start the word, unless the syllable immediately follows a hyphen or other dash. For example, 西安 is written as Xi'an or Xī'ān, and 天峨 is written as Tian'e or Tiān'é, but 第二 is written "dì-èr", without an apostrophe. This apostrophe is not used in the Taipei Metro names.
Pronunciation of finals
Vowels beside dots are: unrounded • rounded
The following is a list of finals in Standard Chinese, excepting most of those ending with r.
To find a given final:
- Remove the initial consonant. Zh, ch, and sh count as initial consonants.
- Change initial w to u and initial y to i. For weng, wen, wei, you, look under ong, un, ui, iu.
- For u after j, q, x, or y, look under ü.
|Pinyin||IPA||Form with zero initial||Explanation|
|-i||[ɹ̩~z̩], [ɻ̩~ʐ̩]||(n/a)||-i is a buzzed continuation of the consonant following z-, c-, s-, zh-, ch-, sh- or r-.|
(In all other cases, -i has the sound of bee; this is listed below.)
|a||[a]||a||like English father, but a bit more fronted|
||e||a back, unrounded vowel (similar to English duh, but not as open). Pronounced as a sequence [ɰɤ].|
|ai||[ai̯]||ai||like English eye, but a bit lighter|
|ei||[ei̯]||ei||as in hey|
|ao||[au̯]||ao||approximately as in cow; the a is much more audible than the o|
|ou||[ou̯]||ou||as in North American English so|
|an||[an]||an||like British English ban, but more central|
|en||[ən]||en||as in taken|
|ang||[aŋ]||ang||as in German Angst.|
(Starts with the vowel sound in father and ends in the velar nasal; like song in some dialects of American English)
|eng||[əŋ]||eng||like e in en above but with ng appended|
|ong||[ʊŋ]||(n/a)||starts with the vowel sound in book and ends with the velar nasal sound in sing. Varies between [oŋ] and [uŋ] depending on the speaker.|
|er||[aɚ̯]||er||Similar to the sound in bar in English. Can also be pronounced [ɚ] depending on the speaker.|
|Finals beginning with i- (y-)|
|i||[i]||yi||like English bee|
|ia||[ja]||ya||as i + a; like English yard|
|ie||[je]||ye||as i + ê where the e (compare with the ê interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter|
|iao||[jau̯]||yao||as i + ao|
|iu||[jou̯]||you||as i + ou|
|ian||[jɛn]||yan||as i + an; like English yen. Varies between [jen] and [jan] depending on the speaker.|
|in||[in]||yin||as i + n|
|iang||[jaŋ]||yang||as i + ang|
|ing||[iŋ]||ying||as i + ng|
|iong||[jʊŋ]||yong||as i + ong. Varies between [joŋ] and [juŋ] depending on the speaker.|
|Finals beginning with u- (w-)|
|u||[u]||wu||like English oo|
|ua||[wa]||wa||as u + a|
|uo, o||[wo]||wo||as u + o where the o (compare with the o interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter (spelled as o after b, p, m or f)|
|uai||[wai̯]||wai||as u + ai, as in English why|
|ui||[wei̯]||wei||as u + ei|
|uan||[wan]||wan||as u + an|
|un||[wən]||wen||as u + en; as in English won|
|uang||[waŋ]||wang||as u + ang|
|(n/a)||[wəŋ]||weng||as u + eng|
|Finals beginning with ü- (yu-)|
|u, ü||[y] (
||yu||as in German über or French lune.
(Pronounced as English ee with rounded lips)
|ue, üe||[ɥe]||yue||as ü + ê where the e (compare with the ê interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter|
|uan||[ɥɛn]||yuan||as ü + an. Varies between [ɥen] and [ɥan] depending on the speaker.|
|un||[yn]||yun||as ü + n|
|ê||[ɛ]||(n/a)||as in bet|
|o||[ɔ]||(n/a)||approximately as in British English office; the lips are much more rounded|
|io||[jɔ]||yo||as i + o|
Pinyin Initials and finals articles: 117
Many books printed in China use a mix of fonts, with vowels and tone marks rendered in a different font from the surrounding text, tending to give such pinyin texts a typographically ungainly appearance. This style, most likely rooted in early technical limitations, has led many to believe that pinyin's rules call for this practice, e.g. the use of a Latin alpha (ɑ) rather than the standard style (a) found in most fonts, or g often written with a single-storey ɡ. The rules of Hanyu Pinyin, however, specify no such practice.(188.8.131.52:8)
- The first tone (flat or high-level tone) is represented by a macron (ˉ) added to the pinyin vowel:
- ā ē ī ō ū ǖ Ā Ē Ī Ō Ū Ǖ
- The second tone (rising or high-rising tone) is denoted by an acute accent (ˊ):
- á é í ó ú ǘ Á É Í Ó Ú Ǘ
- The third tone (falling-rising or low tone) is marked by a caron/háček (ˇ). It is not the rounded breve (˘), though a breve is sometimes substituted due to ignorance or font limitations.
- ǎ ě ǐ ǒ ǔ ǚ Ǎ Ě Ǐ Ǒ Ǔ Ǚ
- The fourth tone (falling or high-falling tone) is represented by a grave accent (ˋ):
- à è ì ò ù ǜ À È Ì Ò Ù Ǜ
- The fifth tone (neutral tone) is represented by a normal vowel without any accent mark:
- a e i o u ü A E I O U Ü
- In dictionaries, neutral tone may be indicated by a dot preceding the syllable; for example, ·ma. When a neutral tone syllable has an alternative pronunciation in another tone, a combination of tone marks may be used: zhī·dào (知道).
These tone marks normally are only used in Mandarin textbooks or in foreign learning texts, but they are essential for correct pronunciation of Mandarin syllables, as exemplified by the following classic example of five characters whose pronunciations differ only in their tones:
The words are "mother", "hemp", "horse", "scold", and a question particle, respectively.
Numerals in place of tone marks
Before the advent of computers, many typewriter fonts did not contain vowels with macron or caron diacritics. Tones were thus represented by placing a tone number at the end of individual syllables. For example, tóng is written tong². The number used for each tone is as the order listed above, except the neutral tone, which is either not numbered, or given the number 0 or 5, e.g. ma⁵ for 吗／嗎, an interrogative marker.
|Tone||Tone Mark||Number added to end of syllable
in place of tone mark
|First||macron ( ◌̄ )||1||mā||ma1||ma˥|
|Second||acute accent ( ◌́ )||2||má||ma2||ma˧˥|
|Third||caron ( ◌̌ )||3||mǎ||ma3||ma˨˩˦|
|Fourth||grave accent ( ◌̀ )||4||mà||ma4||ma˥˩|
or middle dot before syllable ( ·◌ )
Rules for placing the tone mark
Briefly, the tone mark should always be placed by the order—a, o, e, i, u, ü, with the only exception being iu, where the tone mark is placed on the u instead. Pinyin tone marks appear primarily above the nucleus of the syllable, for example as in kuài, where k is the initial, u the medial, a the nucleus, and i the coda. The exception is syllabic nasals like /m/, where the nucleus of the syllable is a consonant, the diacritic will be carried by a written dummy vowel.
When the nucleus is /ə/ (written e or o), and there is both a medial and a coda, the nucleus may be dropped from writing. In this case, when the coda is a consonant n or ng, the only vowel left is the medial i, u, or ü, and so this takes the diacritic. However, when the coda is a vowel, it is the coda rather than the medial which takes the diacritic in the absence of a written nucleus. This occurs with syllables ending in -ui (from wei: (wèi → -uì) and in -iu (from you: yòu → -iù.) That is, in the absence of a written nucleus the finals have priority for receiving the tone marker, as long as they are vowels: if not, the medial takes the diacritic.
An algorithm to find the correct vowel letter (when there is more than one) is as follows:
- If there is an a or an e, it will take the tone mark
- If there is an ou, then the o takes the tone mark
- Otherwise, the second vowel takes the tone mark
- If there is an a, e, or o, it will take the tone mark; in the case of ao, the mark goes on the a
- Otherwise, the vowels are -iu or -ui, in which case the second vowel takes the tone mark
If the tone is written over an i, the tittle above the i is omitted, as in yī.
The placement of the tone marker, when more than one of the written letters a, e, i, o, and u appears, can also be inferred from the nature of the vowel sound in the medial and final. The rule is that the tone marker goes on the spelled vowel that is not a (near-)semi-vowel. The exception is that, for triphthongs that are spelled with only two vowel letters, both of which are the semi-vowels, the tone marker goes on the second spelled vowel.
Specifically, if the spelling of a diphthong begins with i (as in ia) or u (as in ua), which serves as a near-semi-vowel, this letter does not take the tone marker. Likewise, if the spelling of a diphthong ends with o or u representing a near-semi-vowel (as in ao or ou), this letter does not receive a tone marker. In a triphthong spelled with three of a, e, i, o, and u (with i or u replaced by y or w at the start of a syllable), the first and third letters coincide with near-semi-vowels and hence do not receive the tone marker (as in iao or uai or iou). But if no letter is written to represent a triphthong's middle (non-semi-vowel) sound (as in ui or iu), then the tone marker goes on the final (second) vowel letter.
Using tone colors
In addition to tone number and mark, tone color has been suggested as a visual aid for learning. Although there are no formal standards, there are a number of different color schemes in use, Dummitt's being one of the first.
|Scheme||Tone 1||Tone 2||Tone 3||Tone 4||Neutral tone|
- The colors used here to illustrate Unimelb and Thomas are only approximate. The precise color values used by Dummitt, the MDBG Chinese Online Dictionary, Hanping, and Pleco are taken from Laowai's blog Tone Colors and What Pleco Did with Them.
Third tone exceptions
In spoken Chinese, the third tone is often pronounced as a "half third tone", in which the pitch does not rise. Additionally, when two third tones appear consecutively, such as in 你好 (nǐhǎo, hello), the first syllable is pronounced with the second tone — this is called tone sandhi. In pinyin, words like "hello" are still written with two third tones (nǐhǎo).
Pinyin Tones articles: 18
The Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet lists the letters of pinyin, along with their pronunciations, as:
Pinyin differs from other romanizations in several aspects, such as the following:
- Syllables starting with u are written as w in place of u (e.g., *uan is written as wan). Standalone u is written as wu.
- Syllables starting with i are written as y in place of i (e.g., *ian is written as yan). Standalone i is written as yi.
- Syllables starting with ü are written as yu in place of ü (e.g., *üe is written as yue). Standalone ü is written as yu.
- ü is written as u when there is no ambiguity (such as ju, qu, and xu) but as ü when there are corresponding u syllables (such as lü and nü). If there are corresponding u syllables, it is often replaced with v on a computer to make it easier to type on a standard keyboard.
- After by a consonant, iou, uei, and uen are simplified as iu, ui, and un, which do not represent the actual pronunciation.
- As in zhuyin, syllables that are actually pronounced as buo, puo, muo, and fuo are given a separate representation: bo, po, mo, and fo.
- The apostrophe (') is used before a syllable starting with a vowel (a, o, or e) in a syllable other than the first of a word, the syllable being most commonly realized as [ɰ] unless it immediately follows a hyphen or other dash. That is done to remove ambiguity that could arise, as in Xi'an, which consists of the two syllables xi (西) an (安), compared to such words as xian (先). (The ambiguity does not occur when tone marks are used since both tone marks in "Xīān" unambiguously show that the word has two syllables. However, even with tone marks, the city is usually spelled with an apostrophe as "Xī'ān".)
- Eh alone is written as ê; elsewhere as e. Schwa is always written as e.
- Zh, ch, and sh can be abbreviated as ẑ, ĉ, and ŝ (z, c, s with a circumflex). However, the shorthands are rarely used because of the difficulty of entering them on computers and are confined mainly to Esperanto keyboard layouts. Early drafts and some published material used diacritic hooks below instead: ᶎ (ȥ/ʐ), ꞔ, ʂ (ᶊ).
- Ng has the uncommon shorthand of ŋ, which was also used in early drafts.
- Early drafts also contained the letter ɥ or ч, borrowed from the Cyrillic script, in place of later j.
- The letter v is unused, except in spelling foreign languages, languages of minority nationalities, and some dialects, despite a conscious effort to distribute letters more evenly than in Western languages. However, the ease of typing into a computer causes the v to be sometimes used to replace ü. (The Scheme table above maps the letter to bopomofo ㄪ, which typically maps to /v/.)
Most of the above are used to avoid ambiguity when words of more than one syllable are written in pinyin. For example, uenian is written as wenyan because it is not clear which syllables make up uenian; uen-ian, uen-i-an, u-en-i-an, u-e-nian, and u-e-ni-an are all possible combinations, but wenyan is unambiguous since we, nya, etc. do not exist in pinyin. See the pinyin table article for a summary of possible pinyin syllables (not including tones).
Words, capitalization, initialisms and punctuation
Although Chinese characters represent single syllables, Mandarin Chinese is a polysyllabic language. Spacing in pinyin is usually based on words, and not on single syllables. However, there are often ambiguities in partitioning a word.
The Basic Rules of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Orthography (汉语拼音正词法基本规则; 漢語拼音正詞法基本規則; Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Zhèngcífǎ Jīběn Guīzé) were put into effect in 1988 by the National Educational Commission (国家教育委员会; 國家教育委員會; Guójiā Jiàoyù Wěiyuánhuì) and the National Language Commission (国家语言文字工作委员会; 國家語言文字工作委員會; Guójiā Yǔyán Wénzì Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì). These rules became a Guóbiāo recommendation in 1996 and were updated in 2012.
- Single meaning: Words with a single meaning, which are usually set up of two characters (sometimes one, seldom three), are written together and not capitalized: rén (人, person); péngyou (朋友, friend); qiǎokèlì (巧克力, chocolate)
- Combined meaning (2 or 3 characters): Same goes for words combined of two words to one meaning: hǎifēng (海风; 海風, sea breeze); wèndá (问答; 問答, question and answer); quánguó (全国; 全國, nationwide); chángyòngcí (常用词; 常用詞, common words)
- Combined meaning (4 or more characters): Words with four or more characters having one meaning are split up with their original meaning if possible: wúfèng gāngguǎn (无缝钢管; 無縫鋼管, seamless steel-tube); huánjìng bǎohù guīhuà (环境保护规划; 環境保護規劃, environmental protection planning); gāoměngsuānjiǎ (高锰酸钾; 高錳酸鉀, potassium permanganate)
- Duplicated words
- AA: Duplicated characters (AA) are written together: rénrén (人人, everybody), kànkan (看看, to have a look), niánnián (年年, every year)
- ABAB: Two characters duplicated (ABAB) are written separated: yánjiū yánjiū (研究研究, to study, to research), xuěbái xuěbái (雪白雪白, white as snow)
- AABB: Characters in the AABB schema are written together: láiláiwǎngwǎng (来来往往; 來來往往, come and go), qiānqiānwànwàn (千千万万; 千千萬萬, numerous)
- Prefixes (前附成分; qiánfù chéngfèn) and Suffixes (后附成分; 後附成分; hòufù chéngfèn): Words accompanied by prefixes such as fù (副, vice), zǒng (总; 總, chief), fēi (非, non-), fǎn (反, anti-), chāo (超, ultra-), lǎo (老, old), ā (阿, used before names to indicate familiarity), kě (可, -able), wú (无; 無, -less) and bàn (半, semi-) and suffixes such as zi (子, noun suffix), r (儿; 兒, diminutive suffix), tou (头; 頭, noun suffix), xìng (性, -ness, -ity), zhě (者, -er, -ist), yuán (员; 員, person), jiā (家, -er, -ist), shǒu (手, person skilled in a field), huà (化, -ize) and men (们; 們, plural marker) are written together: fùbùzhǎng (副部长; 副部長, vice minister), chéngwùyuán (乘务员; 乘務員, conductor), háizimen (孩子们; 孩子們, children)
- Nouns and names (名词; 名詞; míngcí)
- Words of position are separated: mén wài (门外; 門外, outdoor), hé li (河里; 河裏, under the river), huǒchē shàngmian (火车上面; 火車上面, on the train), Huáng Hé yǐnán (黄河以南; 黃河以南, south of the Yellow River)
- Exceptions are words traditionally connected: tiānshang (天上, in the sky or outerspace), dìxia (地下, on the ground), kōngzhōng (空中, in the air), hǎiwài (海外, overseas)
- Surnames are separated from the given names, each capitalized: Lǐ Huá (李华; 李華), Zhāng Sān (张三; 張三). If the surname and/or given name consists of two syllables, it should be written as one: Zhūgě Kǒngmíng (诸葛孔明; 諸葛孔明).
- Titles following the name are separated and are not capitalized: Wáng bùzhǎng (王部长; 王部長, Minister Wang), Lǐ xiānsheng (李先生, Mr. Li), Tián zhǔrèn (田主任, Director Tian), Zhào tóngzhì (赵同志; 趙同志, Comrade Zhao).
- The forms of addressing people with prefixes such as Lǎo (老), Xiǎo (小), Dà (大) and Ā (阿) are capitalized: Xiǎo Liú (小刘; 小劉, [young] Ms./Mr. Liu), Dà Lǐ (大李, [great; elder] Mr. Li), Ā Sān (阿三, Ah San), Lǎo Qián (老钱; 老錢, [senior] Mr. Qian), Lǎo Wú (老吴; 老吳, [senior] Mr. Wu)
- Geographical names of China: Běijīng Shì (北京市, city of Beijing), Héběi Shěng (河北省, province of Hebei), Yālù Jiāng (鸭绿江; 鴨綠江, Yalu River), Tài Shān (泰山, Mount Tai), Dòngtíng Hú (洞庭湖, Dongting Lake), Qióngzhōu Hǎixiá (琼州海峡; 瓊州海峽, Qiongzhou Strait)
- Monosyllabic prefixes and suffixes are written together with their related part: Dōngsì Shítiáo (东四十条; 東四十條, Dongsi 10th Alley)
- Common geographical nouns that have become part of proper nouns are written together: Hēilóngjiāng (黑龙江; 黑龍江, Heilongjiang)
- Non-Chinese names are written in Hanyu Pinyin: Āpèi Āwàngjìnměi (阿沛·阿旺晋美; 阿沛·阿旺晉美, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme); Dōngjīng (东京; 東京, Tokyo)
- Words of position are separated: mén wài (门外; 門外, outdoor), hé li (河里; 河裏, under the river), huǒchē shàngmian (火车上面; 火車上面, on the train), Huáng Hé yǐnán (黄河以南; 黃河以南, south of the Yellow River)
- Verbs (动词; 動詞; dòngcí): Verbs and their suffixes -zhe (着; 著), -le (了) or -guo ((过; 過) are written as one: kànzhe (看着; 看著, seeing), jìnxíngguo (进行过; 進行過, have been implemented). Le as it appears in the end of a sentence is separated though: Huǒchē dào le. (火车到了; 火車到了, The train [has] arrived).
- Verbs and their objects are separated: kàn xìn (看信, read a letter), chī yú (吃鱼; 吃魚, eat fish), kāi wánxiào (开玩笑; 開玩笑, to be kidding).
- If verbs and their complements are each monosyllabic, they are written together; if not, they are separated: gǎohuài (搞坏; 搞壞, to make broken), dǎsǐ (打死, hit to death), huàwéi (化为; 化為, to become), zhěnglǐ hǎo (整理好, to sort out), gǎixiě wéi (改写为; 改寫為, to rewrite as)
- Adjectives (形容词; 形容詞; xíngróngcí): A monosyllabic adjective and its reduplication are written as one: mēngmēngliàng (矇矇亮, dim), liàngtángtáng (亮堂堂, shining bright)
- Complements of size or degree such as xiē (些), yīxiē (一些), diǎnr (点儿; 點兒) and yīdiǎnr (一点儿; 一點兒) are written separated: dà xiē (大些), a little bigger), kuài yīdiǎnr (快一点儿; 快一點兒, a bit faster)
- Pronouns (代词; 代詞; dàicí)
- Personal pronouns and interrogative pronouns are separated from other words: Wǒ ài Zhōngguó. (我爱中国。; 我愛中國。, I love China); Shéi shuō de? (谁说的？; 誰說的？, Who said it?)
- The demonstrative pronoun zhè (这; 這, this), nà (那, that) and the question pronoun nǎ (哪, which) are separated: zhè rén (这人; 這人, this person), nà cì huìyì (那次会议; 那次會議, that meeting), nǎ zhāng bàozhǐ (哪张报纸; 哪張報紙, which newspaper)
- Exception—If zhè, nà or nǎ are followed by diǎnr (点儿; 點兒), bān (般), biān (边; 邊), shí (时; 時), huìr (会儿; 會兒), lǐ (里; 裏), me (么; 麼) or the general classifier ge (个; 個), they are written together: nàlǐ (那里; 那裏, there), zhèbiān (这边; 這邊, over here), zhège (这个; 這個, this)
- Numerals (数词; 數詞; shùcí) and measure words (量词; 量詞; liàngcí)
- Numbers and words like gè (各, each), měi (每, each), mǒu (某, any), běn (本, this), gāi (该; 該, that), wǒ (我, my, our) and nǐ (你, your) are separated from the measure words following them: liǎng gè rén (两个人; 兩個人, two people), gè guó (各国; 各國, every nation), měi nián (每年, every year), mǒu gōngchǎng (某工厂; 某工廠, a certain factory), wǒ xiào (我校, our school)
- Numbers up to 100 are written as single words: sānshísān (三十三, thirty-three). Above that, the hundreds, thousands, etc. are written as separate words: jiǔyì qīwàn èrqiān sānbǎi wǔshíliù (九亿七万二千三百五十六; 九億七萬二千三百五十六, nine hundred million, seventy-two thousand, three hundred fifty-six). Arabic numerals are kept as Arabic numerals: 635 fēnjī (635 分机; 635 分機, extension 635)
- According to 汉语拼音正词法基本规则 184.108.40.206, the dì (第) used in ordinal numerals is followed by a hyphen: dì-yī (第一, first), dì-356 (第 356, 356th). The hyphen should not be used if the word in which dì (第) and the numeral appear does not refer to an ordinal number in the context. For example: Dìwǔ (第五, a Chinese compound surname). The chū (初) in front of numbers one to ten is written together with the number: chūshí (初十, tenth day)
- Numbers representing month and day are hyphenated: wǔ-sì (五四, May fourth), yīèr-jiǔ (一二·九, December ninth)
- Words of approximations such as duō (多), lái (来; 來) and jǐ (几; 幾) are separated from numerals and measure words: yībǎi duō gè (一百多个; 一百多個, around a hundred); shí lái wàn gè (十来万个; 十來萬個, around a hundred thousand); jǐ jiā rén (几家人; 幾家人, a few families)
- Shíjǐ (十几; 十幾, more than ten) and jǐshí (几十; 幾十, tens) are written together: shíjǐ gè rén (十几个人; 十幾個人, more than ten people); jǐshí (几十根钢管; 幾十根鋼管, tens of steel pipes)
- Approximations with numbers or units that are close together are hyphenated: sān-wǔ tiān (三五天, three to five days), qiān-bǎi cì (千百次, thousands of times)
- Other function words (虚词; 虛詞; xūcí) are separated from other words
- Adverbs (副词; 副詞; fùcí): hěn hǎo (很好, very good), zuì kuài (最快, fastest), fēicháng dà (非常大, extremely big)
- Prepositions (介词; 介詞; jiècí): zài qiánmiàn (在前面, in front)
- Conjunctions (连词; 連詞; liáncí): nǐ hé wǒ (你和我, you and I/me), Nǐ lái háishi bù lái? (你来还是不来？; 你來還是不來？, Are you coming or not?)
- "Constructive auxiliaries" (结构助词; 結構助詞; jiégòu zhùcí) such as de (的/地/得), zhī (之) and suǒ (所): mànmàn de zou (慢慢地走), go slowly)
- A monosyllabic word can also be written together with de (的/地/得): wǒ de shū / wǒde shū (我的书; 我的書, my book)
- Modal auxiliaries at the end of a sentence: Nǐ zhīdào ma? (你知道吗？; 你知道嗎？, Do you know?), Kuài qù ba! (快去吧！, Go quickly!)
- Exclamations and interjections: À! Zhēn měi! (啊！真美！), Oh, it's so beautiful!)
- Onomatopoeia: mó dāo huòhuò (磨刀霍霍, honing a knife), hōnglōng yī shēng (轰隆一声; 轟隆一聲, rumbling)
- The first letter of the first word in a sentence is capitalized: Chūntiān lái le. (春天来了。; 春天來了。, Spring has arrived.)
- The first letter of each line in a poem is capitalized.
- The first letter of a proper noun is capitalized: Běijīng (北京, Beijing), Guójì Shūdiàn (国际书店; 國際書店, International Bookstore), Guójiā Yǔyán Wénzì Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì (国家语言文字工作委员会; 國家語言文字工作委員會, National Language Commission)
- On some occasions, proper nouns can be written in all caps: BĚIJĪNG, GUÓJÌ SHŪDIÀN, GUÓJIĀ YǓYÁN WÉNZÌ GŌNGZUÒ WĚIYUÁNHUÌ
- If a proper noun is written together with a common noun to make a proper noun, it is capitalized. If not, it is not capitalized: Fójiào (佛教, Buddhism), Tángcháo (唐朝, Tang dynasty), jīngjù (京剧; 京劇, Beijing opera), chuānxiōng (川芎, Szechuan lovage)
- Single words are abbreviated by taking the first letter of each character of the word: Beǐjīng (北京, Beijing) → BJ
- A group of words are abbreviated by taking the first letter of each word in the group: guójiā biāozhǔn (国家标准; 國家標準, Guóbiāo standard) → GB
- Initials can also be indicated using full stops: Beǐjīng → B.J., guójiā biāozhǔn → G.B.
- When abbreviating names, the surname is written fully (first letter capitalized or in all caps), but only the first letter of each character in the given name is taken, with full stops after each initial: Lǐ Huá (李华; 李華) → Lǐ H. or LǏ H., Zhūgě Kǒngmíng (诸葛孔明; 諸葛孔明) → Zhūgě K. M. or ZHŪGĚ K. M.
- Line wrapping
- Words can only be split by the character:
guāngmíng (光明, bright) → guāng-
míng, not gu-
- Initials cannot be split:
Wáng J. G. (王建国; 王建國) → Wáng
J. G., not Wáng J.-
- Apostrophes are removed in line wrapping:
Xī'ān (西安, Xi'an) → Xī-
ān, not Xī-
- When the original word has a hyphen, the hyphen is added at the beginning of the new line:
chēshuǐ-mǎlóng (车水马龙; 車水馬龍, heavy traffic: "carriage, water, horse, dragon") → chēshuǐ-
- Words can only be split by the character:
- Hyphenation: In addition to the situations mentioned above, there are four situations where hyphens are used.
- Coordinate and disjunctive compound words, where the two elements are conjoined or opposed, but retain their individual meaning: gōng-jiàn (弓箭, bow and arrow), kuài-màn (快慢, speed: "fast-slow"), shíqī-bā suì (十七八岁; 十七八歲, 17–18 years old), dǎ-mà (打骂; 打罵, beat and scold), Yīng-Hàn (英汉; 英漢, English-Chinese [dictionary]), Jīng-Jīn (京津, Beijing-Tianjin), lù-hǎi-kōngjūn (陆海空军; 陸海空軍, army-navy-airforce).
- Abbreviated compounds (略语; 略語; lüèyǔ): gōnggòng guānxì (公共关系; 公共關係, public relations) → gōng-guān (公关; 公關, PR), chángtú diànhuà (长途电话; 長途電話, long-distance calling) → cháng-huà (长话; 長話, LDC).
Exceptions are made when the abbreviated term has become established as a word in its own right, as in chūzhōng (初中) for chūjí zhōngxué (初级中学; 初級中學, junior high school). Abbreviations of proper-name compounds, however, should always be hyphenated: Běijīng Dàxué (北京大学; 北京大學, Peking University) → Běi-Dà (北大, PKU).
- Four-syllable idioms: fēngpíng-làngjìng (风平浪静; 風平浪靜), calm and tranquil: "wind calm, waves down"), huījīn-rútǔ (挥金如土; 揮金如土, spend money like water: "throw gold like dirt"), zhǐ-bǐ-mò-yàn (纸笔墨砚; 紙筆墨硯, paper-brush-ink-inkstone [four coordinate words]).
- Other idioms are separated according to the words that make up the idiom: bēi hēiguō (背黑锅; 背黑鍋, to be made a scapegoat: "to carry a black pot"), zhǐ xǔ zhōuguān fànghuǒ, bù xǔ bǎixìng diǎndēng (只许州官放火，不许百姓点灯; 只許州官放火，不許百姓點燈, Gods may do what cattle may not: "only the official is allowed to light the fire; the commoners are not allowed to light a lamp")
- The Chinese full stop (。) is changed to a western full stop (.)
- The hyphen is a half-width hyphen (-)
- Ellipsis can be changed from 6 dots (......) to 3 dots (...)
- The enumeration comma (、) is changed to a normal comma (,)
- All other punctuation marks are the same as the ones used in normal texts