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Iso 7098

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Iso 7098

For other uses, see Pinyin (disambiguation).


Pinyin (Chinese: 拼音; pinyin: Pīnyīn; Wade–Giles: P'in1-yin1; [pʰín ín]), formally Hanyu Pinyin (simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音; traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音; pinyin: Hànyǔ Pīnyīn; Wade–Giles: Han4-yü3 P'in1-yin1), is the official phonetic system for transcribing the sound of Chinese characters into Latin script in China, Taiwan,[1] and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and may be used as an input method to enter Chinese characters (汉字/漢字; hanzi) into computers.

The pinyin system was developed in the 1950s based on earlier forms of romanization. It was published by the Chinese government in 1958 and revised several times.[2] The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as the international standard in 1982.[3] The system was adopted as the official standard in Taiwan in 2009, where it is generally referred to as the New Phonetic System and is used for romanization alone rather than for educational and computer input purposes.[4][5]

Hànyǔ means the spoken language of the Han people and pīnyīn literally means "spelled-out sounds".[6]

History before 1949

In 1605, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci published Xizi Qiji (Hsi-tzu Chi-chi; 《西字奇蹟》; lit. "The 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 (Hsi Ju Erh-mu Tzu; 《西儒耳目資》; lit. "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, but implied a first effort that eventually gave rise to pinyin.

One of the earliest Chinese thinkers to relate Western alphabets to Chinese was late Ming to early Qing Dynasty scholar-official Fang Yizhi (Fang I-chih; 方以智; 1611–1671).

It was not until more than two hundred years later that the concept of spelling planted in China by the Jesuits had sufficiently matured for the Chinese themselves to begin proposing its application for the design of new and more efficient scripts. 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 (Yu Yueh; 俞樾) and Zhang Taiyan (Chang Tai-yan; 章太炎), 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.

In the early 1930s, Communist Party of China leaders trained in Moscow introduced a phonetic alphabet using Roman letters developed in the Soviet Oriental Institute of Leningrad. This Sin Wenz or "New Writing", from which the present pinyin system differs only slightly, was much more linguistically sophisticated than earlier alphabets, with the major exception that it did not indicate tones.

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.[7]

History after 1949

Pinyin was developed as part of a Chinese government project in the 1950s. One of the central people was Zhou Youguang, who is often called "the father of Pinyin",[8][9] as he led a government committee in developing the romanization system.[10][11] 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 PRC 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.

Hanyu Pinyin was based on several preexisting systems: (Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz of 1931, and the diacritic markings from zhuyin).[12] "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."[13]

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.[14]

Beginning in the early 1980s, Western publications addressing Mainland China began using the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system instead of earlier romanization systems;[15] this change followed the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the PRC in 1979.[16] In 2001, the PRC Government issued the National Common Language Law, providing a legal basis for applying pinyin.[14]


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.[17] 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.[18]

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.

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.[1][19]

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.[20]

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 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").

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.


When a foreign writing system with one set of sounds and coding/decoding system is taken to write a language, certain compromises may have to be made. The result is that the decoding systems used in some foreign languages will enable non-native speakers to produce sounds more closely resembling the target language than will the coding/decoding system used by other foreign languages. Native speakers of English will decode pinyin spellings to fairly close approximations of Mandarin except in the case of certain speech sounds that are not ordinarily produced by most native speakers of English: j, q, x, z, c, s, zh, ch, sh, and r exhibiting the greatest discrepancies. (When Chinese speakers call out these letters, they read them as: ji, qi, xi, zi, ci, si, zhi, chi, shi, and ri. The i in the last four sounds more like r and the use of i is purely a matter of convention.)

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 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).

Initials and finals

Unlike European languages, clusters of letters – initials (simplified Chinese: 声母; traditional Chinese: 聲母; pinyin: shēngmǔ) and finals (simplified Chinese: 韵母; traditional Chinese: 韻母; pinyin: 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 (simplified Chinese: 哈尔滨; traditional Chinese: 哈爾濱), whose name comes from the Manchu language.

Even though most initials contain a consonant, finals are not always simple vowels, especially in compound finals (simplified Chinese: 复韵母; traditional Chinese: 複韻母; pinyin: fuyunmu), 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 (Chinese: ; , clothes, officially pronounced /í/) as /jí/ and wéi (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: , 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.

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-palatal Velar
Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiceless
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]
Lateral l [l]
Approximant y3 [j]/[ɥ]2 and w3 [w]

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:

b  p  m  f   d  t  n  l   g  k  h   j  q  x   zh  ch  sh  r   z  c  s


Standard Chinese vowels (with IPA and Pinyin)
Front Central Back
i • y (ü)
ɨ (i)

ɤ (e) • o
ɚ (er)

ɛ (ê)


The following chart gives the combinations of medials and finals based on an analysis that assumes just two vowel nuclei, /a/ and /ə/;[21] various allophones result depending on phonetic context.

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[22]

The only syllable-final consonants in Standard Chinese are -n and -ng, and -r, 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), or indicates the use of a non-pinyin Romanization system (where final consonants may be used to indicate tones).

Final Nucleus /a/ /ə/
Coda /i/ /u/ /n/ /ŋ/ /i/ /u/ /n/ /ŋ/
Medial [ä]

/i/ [i̯ä]
/u/ [u̯ä]
[u̯ɔ] 3
[u̯ɤŋ], [ʊŋ] 4
/y/ [y̯ɛn]
-üan 2
-üe 2
-ün 2

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.

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.

Rules given in terms of English pronunciation

All 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

Pinyin IPA English approximation[23] Explanation
b ] spit unaspirated p, as in spit
p ] pay strongly aspirated p, as in pit
m ] may as in English mummy
f ] fair as in English fun
d ] stop unaspirated t, as in stop
t ] take strongly aspirated t, as in top
n ] nay as in English nit
l ] lay as in English love
g ] skill unaspirated k, as in skill
k ] kay strongly aspirated k, as in kill
h ] 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 ] 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 (ジ) ji.
q ] 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 (チ) chi.
x ] 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 (シ) shi.
zh ] junk Rather like ch (a sound between choke, joke, true, and drew, tongue tip curled more upwards). Voiced in a toneless syllable.
ch ] church as in chin, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to nurture in American English, but strongly aspirated.
sh ] shirt as in shoe, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to marsh in American English
r ], ] 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 ] reads unaspirated c, similar to something between suds and cats; as in suds in a toneless syllable
c ] hats like the English ts in cats, but strongly aspirated, very similar to the Czech, Polish and Slovak c.
s ] say as in sun
w ] way as in water.*
y ], ] yea as in yes. Before a u, pronounce it with rounded lips.*
* 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: [ɕ]) 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 (') 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.[24] 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.)

Pronunciation of finals

The following is a list of finals in Standard Chinese, excepting most of those ending with r.

To find a given final:

  1. Remove the initial consonant. Zh, ch, and sh count as initial consonants.
  2. Change initial w to u and initial y to i. For weng, wen, wei, you, look under ong, un, ui, iu.
  3. For u after j, q, x, or y, look under ü.
Pinyin IPA Form with zero initial Explanation
-i ], ] (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 like English "father", but a bit more fronted
e [ɯ̯ʌ], ] 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 ] 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 ] 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 [y]Template:IPA audio link 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 ] (n/a) as in "bet".
o ] (n/a) Approximately as in "office" in British accent; the lips are much more rounded.
io [i̯ɔ] yo as i + plain continental "o".



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).
  • 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 and ). 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.[24] 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 , 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.

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).

Capitalization and word formation

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. Orthographic rules were put into effect in 1988 by the National Educational Commission (国家教育委员会, pinyin: Guójiā Jiàoyù Wěiyuánhuì) and the National Language Commission (国家语言文字工作委员会, pinyin: Guójiā Yǔyán Wénzì Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì).

  1. General
    1. 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 (Chinese: , person); péngyou (Chinese: 朋友, friend), qiǎokèlì (Chinese: 巧克力, chocolate)
    2. Combined meaning (2 characters): Same goes for words combined of two words to one meaning: hǎifēng (simplified Chinese: 海风; traditional Chinese: 海風, sea breeze); wèndá (simplified Chinese: 问答; traditional Chinese: 問答, Q&A), quánguó (simplified Chinese: 全国; traditional Chinese: 全國, 'pan-national')
    3. 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 (simplified Chinese: 无缝钢管; traditional Chinese: 無縫鋼管, seamless steel-tube); huánjìng bǎohù guīhuà (simplified Chinese: 环境保护规划; traditional Chinese: 環境保護規劃, environmental protection planning)
  2. Duplicated words
    1. AA: Duplicated characters (AA) are written together: rénrén (Chinese: 人人; , everybody), kànkàn (Chinese: 看看; , to have a look), niánnián (Chinese: 年年, every year)
    2. ABAB: two characters duplicated (ABAB) are written separated: yánjiū yánjiū (Chinese: 研究研究; , to study, to research), xuěbái xuěbái (Chinese: 雪白雪白, snow-white)
    3. AABB: A hyphen is used with the schema AABB: láilái-wǎngwǎng (simplified Chinese: 来来往往; traditional Chinese: 來來往往, go by), qiānqiān-wànwàn (simplified Chinese: 千千万万; traditional Chinese: 千千萬萬, numerous)
  3. Nouns and names (míngcí): Nouns are written in one: zhuōzi (Chinese: 桌子, table), mùtou (simplified Chinese: 木头; traditional Chinese: 木頭, wood)
    1. Even if accompanied by a prefix and suffix: fùbùzhǎng (simplified Chinese: 副部长; traditional Chinese: 副部長, vice minister), chéngwùyuán (simplified Chinese: 乘务员; traditional Chinese: 乘務員, conductor), háizimen (simplified Chinese: 孩子们; traditional Chinese: 孩子們, children)
    2. Words of position are separated: mén wài (simplified Chinese: 门外; traditional Chinese: 門外, outdoor), hé li (simplified Chinese: 河里; traditional Chinese: 河裏, under the river), huǒchē shàngmian (simplified Chinese: 火车上面; traditional Chinese: 火車上面, on the train), Huáng Hé yǐnán (Chinese: 黄河以南, south of the Yellow River)
      1. Exceptions are words traditionally connected: tiānshang (Chinese: 天上, in the sky or outerspace), dìxia (Chinese: 地下, on the ground), kōngzhōng (Chinese: 空中, in the air), hǎiwài (Chinese: 海外, overseas)
    3. Surnames are separated from the given name: Lǐ Huá, Zhāng Sān. If the given name consists of two syllables, it should be written as one: Wáng Jiàngguó.
    4. Titles following the name are separated and are not capitalized: Wáng bùzhǎng (minister Wang), Lǐ xiānsheng (Mr. Li), Tián zhǔrèn (director Tian), Zhào tóngzhì (comrade Zhao).
    5. The forms of addressing people with Lǎo, Xiǎo, and A are capitalized: Xiǎo Liú ([young] Ms./Mr. Liu), Dà Lǐ ([great;elder] Mr. Li), A Sān (Ah San), Lǎo Qián ([senior] Mr. Qian), Lǎo Wú ([senior] Mr. Wu)
      1. Exceptions are: Kǒngzǐ (Master Confucius), Bāogōng (Judge Bao), Xīshī (a historical person), Mèngchángjūn (a historical person), among others
    6. Geographical names of China: Běijīng Shì (City of Beijing), Héběi Shěng (Province of Hebei), Yālù Jiāng (Yalu River), Tài Shān (Mt. Taishan), Dòngtíng Hú (Dongting Lake), Táiwān Hǎixiá (Taiwan strait)
  4. Verbs (dòngcí): Verbs and their suffixes (-zhe, -le and -guo) are written as one: kànzhe/kànle/kànguo (to see/saw/seen), jìngxíngzhe (to implement). Le as it appears in the end of a sentence is separated though: Huǒchē dào le (The train [has] arrived).
    1. Verbs and their objects are separated: kàn xìn (read a letter), chī yú (eat fish), kāi wánxiào (to be kidding).
    2. If verbs and their complements are each monosyllabic, they are written together, if not, separated: gǎohuài (to make broken), dǎsǐ (hit to death), huàwéi (to become damp), zhěnglǐ hǎo (to straighten out), gǎixiě wéi (rewrite a screenplay)
  5. Adjectives (xíngróngcí): A monosyllabic adjective and its reduplication are written as one: mēngmēngliàng (dim), liàngtāngtāng (shining bright)
    1. Complements of size or degree (as xiē, yīxiē, diǎnr, yīdiǎnr) are written separated: dà xiē (a little bigger), kuài yīdiānr (a bit faster)
  6. Pronouns (dàicí)
    1. The plural suffix -men directly follows up: wǒmen (we), tāmen (they)
    2. The demonstrative pronoun zhè (this), (that) and the question pronoun (which) are separated: zhè rén (this person), nà cì huìyì (that meeting), nǎ zhāng bàozhǐ (which newspaper)
      1. Exceptions are: nàli (there), zhèbian (over here), zhège (this piece), zhème (so), zhèmeyàng (that way)... and similar ones.
  7. Numerals and measure words (shùcí hé liàngcí)
    1. Words like /měi (every, each), mǒu (any), běn (that), gāi (that), (mine, our), are separated from the measure words following them: gè guó (every nation), gè gè (everyone), měi nián (every year), mǒu gōngchǎng (a certain factory), wǒ xiào (our school), liǎng ge rén (two people).
    2. Numbers up to 100 are written as single words: sānshísān (thirty-three). Above that, the hundreds, thousands, etc. are written as separate words: jiǔyì qīwàn èrqiān sānbǎi wǔshíliù (900,072,356).
    3. The of ordinal numerals is hyphenated: dì-yī (first), dì-356 (356th).
  8. Hyphenation In addition to the ordinals mentioned above, there are three situations where words are hyphenated.
    1. Coordinate and disjunctive compound words, where the two elements are conjoined or opposed, but retain their individual meaning: gōng-jiàn (bow and arrow), kuài-màn (speed: "fast-slow"), shíqī-bā suì (17–18 years old), dǎ-mà (beat and scold), Yīng-Hàn (English-Chinese [dictionary]), Jīng-Jīn (Beijing-Tianjin), lù-hǎi-kōngjūn (army-navy-airforce).
    2. Abbreviated compounds (luèyǔ): gōnggòng guānxì (public relations) → gōng-guān, chángtú diànhuà (long-distance telephone call) → cháng-huà.
      Exceptions are made when the abbreviated term has become established as a word in its own right, as in chūzhōng for chūjí zhōngxué (elementary high school). Abbreviations of proper-name compounds, however, should always be hyphenated: Běijīng Dàxué (Beijing University) → Běi-Dà.
    3. Four-syllable idioms: fēngpíng-làngjìng (calm and tranquil: "wind calm, waves down"), huījīn-rútǔ (spend money like water: "throw gold like dirt"), zhǐ-bǐ-mò-yàn (paper-brush-ink-inkstone [four coordinate words]). (The AA-BB reduplication above is an instance of this.)[25]


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.

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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.)

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: Template:Chinese tones

Traditional characters:

Template:Ruby Template:Ruby Template:Ruby Template:Ruby Template:Ruby

Simplified characters:

Template:Ruby Template:Ruby Template:Ruby Template:Ruby Template:Ruby

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
Example using
tone mark
Example using
First macron ( ¯ ) 1 ma1 mɑ˥
Second acute accent ( ´ ) 2 ma2 mɑ˧˥
Third caron ( ˇ ) 3 ma3 mɑ˨˩˦
Fourth grave accent ( ` ) 4 ma4 mɑ˥˩
"Neutral" No mark
or dot before syllable (·)
no number

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:[26]

  1. If there is an a or an e, it will take the tone mark.
  2. If there is an ou, then the o takes the tone mark.
  3. Otherwise, the second vowel takes the tone mark.

Worded differently,

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Phonological intuition

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.[27]
  • 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.[28]
  • 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 character ü

A trema 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 (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 trema, as in .

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 , not as . 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 trema 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 . Genuine ambiguities only happen with nu/ and lu/, which are then distinguished by a trema (diacritic).

Many fonts or output methods do not support a trema 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 or , particularly people with the surname 吕 (), a fairly common surname, particularly compared to the surname 陆 (), 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.[29][30]

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 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,[4][5] 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.[31] 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."[32]

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 hanzi. 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.

Other languages

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) 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
Shigatse Xigazê 日喀則 日喀则 Rìkāzé
Urumchi Ürümqi 烏魯木齊 乌鲁木齐 Wūlǔmùqí
Lhasa Lhasa 拉薩 拉萨 Lāsà
Hohhot Hohhot 呼和浩特 呼和浩特 Hūhéhàotè
Golmud Golmud 格爾木 格尔木 Gé'ěrmù

Tongyong pinyin was developed in Taiwan for use in rendering not only Mandarin Chinese, but other languages and dialects spoken on the island such as Taiwanese, Hakka and aboriginal languages.

See also


Further reading

  • 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
  • Wu, C.-j. (1979). The Pinyin Chinese–English dictionary. Hong Kong: Commercial Press. ISBN 0-471-27557-3

External links

  • (Proper sound of pinyin from 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 for Hanyu Pinyin Orthography (National Standard of the People's Republic of China (ICS 01.140.10), 1996)
  • Interactive Pinyin Table
  • Standard Mandarin Pinyin Chart
  • pinyinAID
  • Zhou Youguang (
  • Table of Combinations of Initials and Finals (
  • Chinese text annotation
  • Free Chinese Pronunciation Online
  • Pinyin Listening Test for 4 Tones
  • Pinyin Tone Recognition Test
  • Pinyin audio of Google Translate (mp3 files) 1243 different syllables and tones
  • Refresh how to pronounce a word in Pinyin
  • Pinyin Chart for iPad Pinyin Chart app for iPad, every available tones in the Chinese language included.
  • Pinyin Chart for iPhone Pinyin Chart app for iPhone, every available tones in the Chinese language included.
Preceded by
Gwoyeu Romatzyh
Official romanization adopted
by the People's Republic of China

Succeeded by
Preceded by
de facto used romanization
by the People's Republic of China

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Tongyong Pinyin
Official romanization adopted
by the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Succeeded by
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