|Scheme of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet|
|Min — Min Nan|
|Min — Min Dong|
Pinyin, or Hanyu Pinyin, is the official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet in the People's Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Chinese and a pinyin without diacritic markers is often used in foreign publications to spell Chinese names familiar to non-Chinese and may be used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into computers.
The Hanyu Pinyin system was developed in the 1950s based on earlier forms of
- 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)
- 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)
- 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 suffixes 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)
- Exceptions are: Kǒngzǐ (孔子, Confucius), Bāogōng (包公, Judge Bao), Xīshī (西施, Xishi), Mèngchángjūn (孟尝君; 孟嘗君, Lord Mengchang), among others
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), Táiwān Hǎixiá (台湾海峡; 臺灣海峽, Taiwan 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)
- Chinese names of 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)
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 classifierge (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 ge 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)
- The dì (第) of ordinal numerals is hyphenated: dì-yī (第一, first), dì-356 (第 356, 356th). 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, including:
- 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, that'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: Beǐjīng (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, Guobiao 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.
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 disappear 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-
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; luèyǔ): 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]). (The AA-BB reduplication above is an instance of this.)
- 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.
The first tone (Flat or High Level Tone) is represented by a macron (ˉ) added to the pinyin vowel:
ā (ɑ̄) 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 (ɑ́) 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 font limitations.
ǎ (ɑ̌) 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 (ɑ̀) 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 (ɑ) e i o u ü A E I O U Ü
- (In some cases, this is also written with a dot before the syllable; for example, ·ma.)
- 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.
The pinyin system also uses diacritics to mark the four tones of Mandarin. The diacritic is placed over the letter that represents the syllable nucleus, unless that letter is missing (see below). 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 and also for the use of a Latin alpha (ɑ) rather than the standard style of the letter (a) found in most fonts. The official rules of Hanyu Pinyin, however, specify no such practice.
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.
Number added to end of syllable
in place of tone mark
|First||macron ( ¯ )||1||mā||ma1||mɑ˥|
|Second||acute accent ( ´ )||2||má||ma2||mɑ˧˥|
|Third||caron ( ˇ )||3||mǎ||ma3||mɑ˨˩˦|
|Fourth||grave accent ( ` )||4||mà||ma4||mɑ˥˩|
or 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 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 here 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 color scheme was one of the first to be used. It is tone 1 - red, tone 2 - orange, tone 3 - green, tone 4 - blue and neutral tone - black.
- The Unimelb color scheme is tone 1 - blue, tone 2 - green, tone 3 - purple, tone 4 - red, neutral tone - grey
- The Hanping color scheme is tone 1 - blue, tone 2 - green, tone 3 - orange, tone 4 - red, neutral tone - grey.
- The Pleco color scheme is tone 1 - red, tone 2 - green, tone 3 - blue, tone 4 - purple, neutral tone - grey
- The Thomas color scheme is tone 1 - green, tone 2 - blue, tone 3 - red, tone 4 - black, neutral tone - grey
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. In pinyin, words like "hello" are still written with two third tones (nǐhǎo).
The ü sound
An umlaut is placed over the letter u when it occurs after the initials l and n 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 to use the umlaut to distinguish between chü (pinyin ju) and chu (pinyin zhu), this ambiguity cannot 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 surname 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.
Pinyin in Taiwan
Taiwan (Republic of China) adopted Tongyong Pinyin, a modification of Hanyu Pinyin, as the official romanization system on the national level between October 2002 and January 2009, when it switched to Hanyu Pinyin. Tongyong Pinyin ("official phonetic"), a variant of pinyin developed in Taiwan, was designed to romanize languages and dialects spoken on the island in addition to Mandarin Chinese. The Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) resisted its adoption, preferring the Hanyu Pinyin system used in Mainland China and in general use internationally. Romanization preferences quickly became associated with issues of national identity. Preferences split along party lines: the Kuomintang and its affiliated parties in the pan-blue coalition supported the use of Hanyu Pinyin while the Democratic Progressive Party and its affiliated parties in the pan-green coalition favored the use of Tongyong Pinyin.
Tongyong Pinyin was made the official system in an administrative order that allowed its adoption by local governments to be voluntary. A few localities with governments controlled by the Kuomintang (KMT), most notably Taipei, Hsinchu, and Kinmen County, overrode the order and converted to Hanyu Pinyin before the January 1, 2009 national-level switch, though with a slightly different capitalization convention than mainland China. Most areas of Taiwan adopted Tongyong Pinyin, consistent with the national policy. Many street signs in Taiwan today still display Tongyong Pinyin but some, especially in northern Taiwan, display Hanyu Pinyin. It is still not unusual to see spellings on street signs and buildings derived from the older Wade-Giles, MPS2 and other systems.
The adoption of Hanyu Pinyin as the official romanization system in Taiwan does not preclude the official retention of earlier spellings. International familiarity has led to the retention of the spelling Taipei ("Taibei" in pinyin systems) and even to its continuation in the name of New Taipei, a municipality created in 2010. Personal names on Taiwanese passports honor the choices of Taiwanese citizens, who often prefer the Wade-Giles romanization of their personal names. Transition to Hanyu Pinyin in official use is also necessarily gradual. Universities and other government entities retain earlier spellings in long-established names, budget restraints preclude widespread replacement of signage and stationery in every area, and questions remain about the ability of the national government to enforce the standard island-wide. Primary education in Taiwan continues to teach pronunciation using zhuyin (MPS or Mandarin Phonetic Symbols).
Comparison with other orthographies
Pinyin is now used by foreign students learning Chinese as a second language.
Pinyin assigns some Latin letters sound values which are quite different from that of most languages. This has drawn some criticism as it may lead to confusion when uninformed speakers apply either native or English assumed pronunciations to words. However this is not a specific problem of pinyin, since many languages that use the Latin alphabet natively assign different values to the same letters. A recent study on Chinese writing and literacy concluded, "By and large, pinyin represents the Chinese sounds better than the Wade-Giles system, and does so with fewer extra marks."
Pinyin is purely a representation of the sounds of Mandarin, therefore it lacks the semantic cues that Chinese characters can provide. It is also unsuitable for transcribing some Chinese spoken languages other than Mandarin.
Chart of comparison with other romanizations
Computer input systems
Simple computer systems, able to display only 7-bit ASCII text (essentially the 26 Latin letters, 10 digits and punctuation marks), long provided a convincing argument in favor of pinyin over Chinese characters. Today, however, most computer systems are able to display characters from Chinese and many other writing systems as well, and have them entered with a Latin keyboard using an input method editor. Alternatively, some PDAs, tablet computers and digitizing tablets allow users to input characters directly by writing with a stylus.
Pinyin-like systems have been devised for other variants of Chinese. Guangdong Romanization is a set of romanizations devised by the government of Guangdong province for Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka (Moiyen dialect), and Hainanese. All of these are designed to use Latin letters in a similar way to pinyin.
In addition, in accordance to the Regulation of Phonetic Transcription in Hanyu Pinyin Letters of Place Names in Minority Nationality Languages (少数民族语地名汉语拼音字母音译转写法; 少數民族語地名漢語拼音字母音譯寫法) promulgated in 1976, place names in non-Han languages like Mongolian, Uyghur, and Tibetan are also officially transcribed using pinyin in a system adopted by the State Administration of Surveying and Mapping and Geographical Names Committee known as SASM/GNC romanization. The pinyin letters (26 Roman letters, ü, ê) are used to approximate the non-Han language in question as closely as possible. This results in spellings that are different from both the customary spelling of the place name, and the pinyin spelling of the name in Chinese:
|Customary||Official (pinyin for local name)||Traditional Chinese name||Simplified Chinese name||Pinyin for Chinese name|
- Transcription into Chinese characters
- Chinese postal map romanization
- Combining character
- Erhua (儿化)
- Jyutping (most similar to IPA)
- Legge romanization
- List of ISO romanizations
- Pinyin input method
- Pinyin table
- Romanization of Japanese
- Simplified Wade
- Tibetan pinyin
- Tone number
- Tongyong Pinyin
- Snowling, Margaret J.; Hulme, Charles (2005). The science of reading: a handbook. Blackwell handbooks of developmental psychology) 17. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 320–22.
- "Pinyin celebrates 50th birthday". Xinhua News Agency. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "ISO 7098:1982 – Documentation – Romanization of Chinese". Retrieved 2009-03-01.
- "Hanyu Pinyin to be standard system in 2009". Taipei Times. 2008-09-18. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- "Government to improve English-friendly environment". The China Post. 2008-09-18. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- The on-line version of the canonical Guoyu Cidian (《國語辭典》) defines this term as: 標語音﹑不標語義的符號系統，足以明確紀錄某一種語言。(A system of symbols for notation of the sounds of words rather than for their meanings that is sufficient to accurately record some language.) See http://dict.revised.moe.edu.tw/cgi-bin/newDict/dict.sh?cond=++%AB%F7%AD%B5&pieceLen=50&fld=1&cat=&ukey=2123466121&serial=1&recNo=2&op=f&imgFont=1 accessed 14 September 2012.
- Sin, Kiong Wong (2012). Confucianism, Chinese History and Society. World Scientific. p. 72.
- Brockey, Liam Matthew (2009). Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724. Harvard University Press. p. 261.
- Chan, Wing-tsit; Adler, Joseph (2013). Sources of Chinese Tradition. Columbia University Press. pp. 303, 304.
- Norman, Jerry (1988). Chinese, Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge University Press. p. 261.
- Jensen, Lionel M.; Weston, Timothy B. (2007). China's Transformations: The Stories Beyond the Headlines. Rowman & Littlefield. p. XX.
- Chen, Ping (1999). Modern Chinese: History and Sociolinguistics. Cambridge University Press.
- John DeFrancis, The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984), pp. 246-247.
- "Father of pinyin".
- "Zhou Youguang". China Digital Times. China.
- "Tag: Zhou Youguang". Chinadigitaltimes.net. 2011-10-19. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
- Branigan, Tania (2008-02-21). "Sound Principles". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- Rohsenow, John S. 1989. Fifty years of script and written language reform in the PRC: the genesis of the language law of 2001. In Zhou Minglang and Sun Hongkai, eds. Language Policy In The People's Republic Of China: Theory And Practice Since 1949, p. 23
- Branigan, Tania (2008-02-21). "Sound principles". The Guardian (London).
- "Hanyu Pinyin system turns 50".
- Terry, Edith. How Asia Got Rich: Japan, China and the Asian Miracle. M.E. Sharpe, 2002. 632. Retrieved from Google Books on August 7, 2011. ISBN 0-7656-0356-X, 9780765603562.
- Terry, Edith. How Asia Got Rich: Japan, China and the Asian Miracle. M.E. Sharpe, 2002. 633. Retrieved from Google Books on August 7, 2011. ISBN 0-7656-0356-X, 9780765603562.
- "New Pinyin Standards (2012). On Derk Zech’s blog, with links to PDF documents". 2012-12-31. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- Lin Mei-chun (2000-10-08). "Official challenges romanization". Taipei Times.
- Ao, Benjamin (1997-12-01). "History and Prospect of Chinese Romanization". Chinese Librarianship: an International Electronic Journal (Internet Chinese Librarians Club) (4).
- R.F. Price (2005). Education in Modern China. Volume 23 of "China : history, philosophy, economics". (2, illustrated ed.). Routledge. p. 123.
- Price (2005), pp. 206–208
- Hashimoto, Mantaro (1970). "Notes on Mandarin Phonology". In
- You can hear recordings of the Finals here
- "Apostrophes in Hanyu Pinyin: when and where to use them".
- "Basic Rules of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Orthography". Qingdao Vocational and Technical College of Hotel Management (in Chinese). Department of Educational Administration. 10 April 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
- "Basic Rules of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Orthography"Release of the National Standard . China Education and Research Network (in Chinese). China Education and Research Network. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
- "Use of the Hyphen; Abbreviations and Short Forms". Pinyin.info. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
- Swofford, Mark. "Where do the tone marks go?". Pinyin.info. Retrieved 2008-09-20.
- Nathan Dummitt, Chinese Through Tone & Color (2008)
- "Hanping Chinese Dictionary color scheme". 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
- Huang, Rong. """公安部最新规定 护照上的"ü"规范成"YU. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
- Li, Zhiyan. ""吕"拼音到怎么写？ 公安部称应拼写成"LYU"". Retrieved 23 August 2012.
- "Google Reader". Google.com. Retrieved 2010-05-17.
- Taylor, Insup and Maurice M. Taylor (1995), Writing and literacy in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, Volume 3 of Studies in written language and literacy, John Benjamins, p. 124.
- Yin Binyong/尹斌庸 and Mary Felley (1990). Chinese Romanization. Pronunciation and Orthography (Hanyu Pinyin he zhengcifa 汉语拼音和正词法). Beijing: Sinolingua. ISBN 7-80052-148-6 / ISBN 0-8351-1930-0.
- Gao, J. K. (2005). Pinyin shorthand: a bilingual handbook = [Pinyin su ji fa]. Dallas, TX: Jack Sun. ISBN 1-59971-251-2
- Kimball, R. L. (1988). Quick reference Chinese: a practical guide to Mandarin for beginners and travelers in English, Pinyin romanization, and Chinese characters. San Francisco, CA: China Books & Periodicals. ISBN 0-8351-2036-8
- Uy, Dr. Tim and Jim Hsia (ed.) (2009). Webster's Digital Chinese Dictionary: Advanced Reference Edition. Mountain View, CA: Loqu8 Press.
- Wu, C.-j. (1979). The Pinyin Chinese–English dictionary. Hong Kong: Commercial Press. ISBN 0-471-27557-3
Pinyin reading matters
- (Proper sound of pinyin from zdic.net with sounds, require java script turned on)
- Pinyin-Hanzi-English Chinese-English dictionary
- Pinyin-English news summary for learners of Chinese language
- Free Pinyin Tutorial (Chinese & Beyond)
- Basic Rules of Hanyu Pinyin Orthography by Zhou Youguang (Pinyin.info. Now superseded by GB/T 16159-2012 below.)
- Basic Rules for Hanyu Pinyin Orthography (National Standard of the People's Republic of China (ICS 01.140.10), 1996. Now superseded by GB/T 16159-2012 below.)
- Basic rules of the Chinese phonetic alphabet orthography (The official standard GB/T 16159-2012 in Chinese. PDF version from the Chinese Ministry of Education.)
- The Chinese phonetic alphabet spelling rules for Chinese names (The official standard GB/T 28039-2011 in Chinese. PDF version from the Chinese Ministry of Education.)
- Interactive Pinyin Table
- Mandarin Chinese Pinyin Table
- Table of Combinations of Initials and Finals (Pinyin.info)
- Free Chinese Pronunciation Online
- Pinyin Listening Test for 4 Tones
- Pinyin Tone Recognition Test
- Refresh how to pronounce a word in Pinyin
Official romanization adopted
by the People's Republic of China
de facto used romanization
by the People's Republic of China
Official romanization adopted
by the Republic of China (Taiwan)
Although Chinese characters represent single syllables, Mandarin Chinese is a polysyllabic language. Spacing in pinyin is based on whole words, not 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 Guobiao standard in 1996 and were updated in 2012.
Word formation, capitalization, initialisms and punctuation
Most of the above are used to avoid ambiguity when writing words of more than one syllable in pinyin. For example uenian is written as wenyan because it is not clear which syllables make up uenian; uen-ian, uen-i-an and u-en-i-an are all possible combinations whereas wenyan is unambiguous because we, nya, etc. do not exist in pinyin. See the pinyin table article for a summary of possible pinyin syllables (not including tones).
- 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).
- ü is written as u when there is no ambiguity (such as ju, qu, and xu), but written as ü when there are corresponding u syllables (such as lü and nü). In such situations where there are corresponding u syllables, it is often replaced with v on a computer, making it easier to type on a standard keyboard.
- When preceded by a consonant, iou, uei, and uen are simplified as iu, ui, and un (which do not represent the actual pronunciation).
- As in zhuyin, what 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 multiple-syllable word when the syllable does not start the word (which is most commonly realized as [ɰ]), unless the syllable immediately follows a hyphen or other dash. This 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"). (This ambiguity does not occur when tone marks are used: The two tone marks in "Xīān" unambiguously show that the word consists of 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 due to difficulty of entering them on computers, and are confined mainly to Esperanto keyboard layouts.
- ng has the uncommon shorthand of ŋ.
- 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, sometimes, for ease of typing into a computer, the v is used to replace a ü.
Pinyin differs from other romanizations in several aspects, such as the following:
|Pinyin||Form with zero initial||Explanation|
-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||[ä]||a||like English "father", but a bit more fronted|
|e||[ɯ̯ʌ], [ə]||e||a diphthong consisting first of a back, unrounded semivowel (which can be formed by first pronouncing "w" and then spreading the lips without changing the position of the tongue) followed by a vowel similar to English "duh". Many unstressed syllables in Chinese use the schwa [ə] (idea), and this is also written as e.|
|ai||[aɪ̯]||ai||like English "eye", but a bit lighter|
|ei||[eɪ̯]||ei||as in "hey"|
|ao||[ɑʊ̯]||ao||approximately as in "cow"; the a is much more audible than the o|
|ou||[oʊ̯]||ou||as in "so"|
|an||[än]||an||like British English "ban", but more central|
|en||[ən]||en||as in "taken"|
|ang||[ɑŋ]||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||[ɤŋ]||eng||like e in en above but with ng added to it at the back|
|er||[ɑɻ]||er||similar to the sound in "bar" in American English|
|Finals beginning with i- (y-)|
|i||[i]||yi||like English bee.|
|ia||[i̯ä]||ya||as i + a; like English "yard"|
|ie||[i̯ɛ]||ye||as i + ê; but is very short; e (pronounced like ê) is pronounced longer and carries the main stress (similar to the initial sound ye in yet)|
|iao||[i̯ɑʊ̯]||yao||as i + ao|
|iu||[i̯oʊ̯]||you||as i + ou|
|ian||[i̯ɛn]||yan||as i + ê + n; like English yen|
|in||[in]||yin||as i + n|
|iang||[i̯ɑŋ]||yang||as i + ang|
|ing||[iŋ]||ying||as i + ng|
|Finals beginning with u- (w-)|
|u||[u]||wu||like English "oo"|
|ua||[u̯ä]||wa||as u + a|
|uo, o||[u̯ɔ]||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||[u̯aɪ̯]||wai||as u + ai like as in why|
|ui||[u̯eɪ̯]||wei||as u + ei;|
|uan||[u̯än]||wan||as u + an;|
|un||[u̯ən]||wen||as u + en; like the on in the English won;|
|uang||[u̯ɑŋ]||wang||as u + ang;|
|ong||[ʊŋ], [u̯ɤŋ]||weng||starts with the vowel sound in book and ends with the velar nasal sound in sing; as u + eng in zero initial.|
|Finals beginning with ü- (yu-)|
|u, ü||( )||yu||as in German "über" or French "lune" (To pronounce this sound, say "ee" with rounded lips)|
|ue, üe||[y̯œ]||yue||as ü + ê; the ü is short and light|
|uan||[y̯ɛn]||yuan||as ü + ê + n;|
|un||[yn]||yun||as ü + n;|
|iong||[i̯ʊŋ]||yong||as i + ong|
|ê||[ɛ]||(n/a)||as in "bet".|
|o||[ɔ]||(n/a)||Approximately as in "office" in British accent; the lips are much more rounded.|
|io||[i̯ɔ]||yo||as i + plain continental "o".|
- 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.
To find a given final:
The following is a list of finals in Standard Chinese, excepting most of those ending with r.
Pronunciation of finals
The apostrophe (') 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 (which is most commonly realized as [ɰ]), unless the syllable immediately follows a hyphen or other dash. This 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"). (This ambiguity does not occur when tone marks are used: The two tone marks in Xīān unambiguously show that the word consists of two syllables. However, even with tone marks, the city is usually spelled with an apostrophe as Xī'ān.)
- ** Note on the apostrophe
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 y and w
|b||[p]||spit||unaspirated p, as in spit|
|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]||loch||roughly like the Scots ch. English h as in hay or, more closely in some American dialects, hero is an acceptable approximation. The best way to produce this sound is by very slowly making a "k" sound, pausing at the point where there is just restricted air flowing over the back of your tongue (after the release at the beginning of a "k")|
|j||[tɕ]||churchyard||No equivalent in English, but similar to an unaspirated "-chy-" sound when said quickly. Like q, but unaspirated. Not the s in Asia, despite the common English pronunciation of "Beijing". The sequence "ji" word-initially is the same as the Japanese pronunciation of じ(ジ) ji.|
|q||[tɕʰ]||punch yourself||No equivalent in English. Like punch yourself, with the lips spread wide with ee. Curl the tip of the tongue downwards to stick it at the back of the teeth and strongly aspirate. The sequence "qi" word-initially is the same as the Japanese pronunciation of ち(チ) chi.|
|x||[ɕ]||push yourself||No equivalent in English. Like -sh y-, with the lips spread and the tip of your tongue curled downwards and stuck to the back of teeth when you say ee. The sequence "xi" is the same as the Japanese pronunciation of し(シ) shi.|
|zh||[tʂ]||junk||Rather like ch (a sound between choke, joke, true, and drew, tongue tip curled more upwards). Voiced in a toneless syllable.|
|ch||[tʂʰ]||church||as in chin, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to nurture in American English, but strongly aspirated.|
|sh||[ʂ]||shirt||as in shoe, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to marsh in American English|
|r||[ʐ], [ɻ]||ray||Similar to the English z in azure and r in reduce, but with the tongue curled upwards, like a cross between English "r" and French "j". In Cyrillised Chinese the sound is rendered with the letter "ж".|
|z||[ts]||reads||unaspirated c, similar to something between suds and cats; as in suds in a toneless syllable|
|c||[tsʰ]||hats||like the English ts in cats, but strongly aspirated, very similar to the Czech, Polish and Slovak c.|
|s||[s]||say||as in sun|
|w||[w]||way||as in water.*|
|y||[j], [ɥ]||yea||as in yes. Before a u, pronounce it with rounded lips.*|
Pronunciation of initials
All rules given here in terms of English pronunciation are approximations, as several of these sounds do not correspond directly to sounds in English.
Rules given in terms of English pronunciation
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.
1 [ɑɻ] 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 j, q, x, or y.
3 uo is written as o after b, p, m, or f.
4 weng is pronounced [ʊŋ] (written as ong) when it follows an initial.
[u̯ɤŋ], [ʊŋ] 4
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 following chart gives the combinations of medials and finals based on an analysis that assumes just two vowel nuclei, /a/ and /ə/; various allophones result depending on phonetic context.
b p m f d t n l g k h j q x zh ch sh r z c s
1 r may phonetically be [ʐ] (a voiced retroflex fricative) or [ɻ] (a retroflex approximant). This pronunciation varies among different speakers, and is not two different phonemes.
2 y is pronounced [ɥ] (a labial-palatal approximant) before u.
3 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. The conventional order (excluding w and y), derived from the zhuyin system, is:
|Nasal||m [m]||n [n]|
|Plosive||Unaspirated||b [p]||d [t]||g [k]|
|Aspirated||p [pʰ]||t [tʰ]||k [kʰ]|
|Affricate||Unaspirated||z [ts]||zh [ʈʂ]||j [tɕ]|
|Aspirated||c [tsʰ]||ch [ʈʂʰ]||q [tɕʰ]|
|Fricative||f [f]||s [s]||sh [ʂ]||r [ʐ~ɻ]1||x [ɕ]||h [x]|
|Approximant||y3 [j]/[ɥ]2 and w3 [w]|
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.
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). The latter case, though a common practice in some sub-dialects, is rarely used in official publications. One exception is the city Harbin (哈尔滨; 哈爾濱), whose name comes from the Manchu language.
Initials and finals
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), the nucleus vowel, and coda (final vowel or consonant).
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 English (in which the two sets are however also differentiated by voicing), but not to that of French. Z and c also have that distinction, pronounced as [ts] and [tsʰ]. 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, and reminds the trained reader that many Chinese pronounce sh, zh, ch as s, z, c (and English-speakers use zh to represent /ʒ/ in foreign languages such as Russian anyway). 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 tone-marking diacritics are commonly omitted in popular news stories and even in scholarly works. This results in some degree of ambiguity as to which words are being represented.
Pinyin has become a tool for many foreigners to learn the Mandarin pronunciation, and is used to explain both the grammar and spoken Mandarin coupled with Chinese characters (汉字; 漢字; Hanzi). Books containing both Chinese characters and pinyin are often used by foreign learners of Chinese; pinyin's role in teaching pronunciation to foreigners and children is similar in some respects to furigana-based books (with hiragana letters written above or next to kanji) in Japanese or fully vocalised texts in Arabic ("vocalised Arabic").
Since 1958, pinyin has been actively used in adult education as well, making it easier for formerly illiterate people to continue with self-study after a short period of pinyin literacy instruction.
Families outside of Taiwan who speak Mandarin as a mother tongue use pinyin to help children associate characters with spoken words which they already know. Chinese families outside of Taiwan who speak some other language as their mother tongue use the system to teach children Mandarin pronunciation when they learn vocabulary in elementary school.
The spelling of Chinese geographical or personal names in pinyin has become the most common way to transcribe them in English. Pinyin has also become the dominant method for entering Chinese text into computers in Mainland China, in contrast to Taiwan where Bopomofo is most commonly used.
Pinyin superseded older romanization systems such as Wade-Giles (1859; modified 1892) and Chinese postal map romanization, and replaced zhuyin as the method of Chinese phonetic instruction in mainland China. The ISO adopted pinyin as the standard romanization for modern Chinese in 1982 (ISO 7098:1982, superseded by ISO 7098:1991); the United Nations followed suit in 1986. It has also been accepted by the government of Singapore, the United States' Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and many other international institutions.
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.
A first 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.
Hanyu Pinyin was based on several preexisting systems: (Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz of 1931, and the diacritic markings from zhuyin). "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."
Pinyin was developed as part of a Chinese government project in the 1950s. One of the prominent figures was  as he led a government committee in developing the romanization system. Zhou was working in a New York bank when he decided to return to China to help rebuild the country after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Zhou became an economics professor in Shanghai, and in 1954, when China's Ministry of Education created a Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language, Zhou was assigned the task of helping to develop a new romanization system.
History after 1949
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 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 characters. Opposition arose, however, because the system was less well adapted to writing regional languages, and therefore would require learning Mandarin. Sin Wenzi fell into relative disuse during the following years.
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 originally intended to improve literacy in the Russian Far East. This Sin Wenz or "New Writing" was much more linguistically sophisticated than earlier alphabets, with the major exception that it did not indicate tones.
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.
One of the earliest Chinese thinkers to relate Western alphabets to Chinese was late Ming to early Qing Dynasty scholar-official, Fang Yizhi (方以智; Fāng Yǐzhì; Fang I-chih; 1611–1671).
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 Xi Ru Ermu Zi (《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.
History before 1949
- History before 1949 1
- History after 1949 2
- Usage 3
- Overview 4
Initials and finals 5
- Initials 5.1
- Finals 5.2
Rules given in terms of English pronunciation 6
- Pronunciation of initials 6.1
- Pronunciation of finals 6.2
- Letters 7.1
- Word formation, capitalization, initialisms and punctuation 7.2
- Numerals in place of tone marks 8.1
Rules for placing the tone mark 8.2
- Phonological intuition 8.2.1
- Using tone colors 8.3
- Third tone exceptions 8.4
- The ü sound 9
- Pinyin in Taiwan 10
Comparison with other orthographies 11
- Chart of comparison with other romanizations 11.1
- Computer input systems 11.2
- Other languages 12
- See also 13
- References 14
Further reading 15
- Pinyin reading matters 15.1
- External links 16
 The system was adopted as the official standard in Taiwan in 2009, where it is used for romanization alone rather than for educational and computer input purposes.