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OFF: More Pinyin reform...

From:Daniel A. Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Thursday, February 24, 2000, 16:49
Back on the subject of a possible (or at least personal) revision of Pinyin
for Mandarin.

I started with Bopomofo, used some ideas from Wade-Giles, and came up with
these changes:

There are two <e>'s -- a back one (similar to a schwa) and a front one.  The
latter only occurs in <ie>, but the two could be set apart by writing the
'real e' as <eh>.  However, I've also toyed with writing NO vowel for the
'schwa e' and using <e> for the fronted version.  So _be_ ends up as just
_b_, and _sheng_ becomes _shng_ (see below).  (The tone marker could be
placed over the nasal -- but I'm thinking of marking tone to the right of
the syllable and not over the vowel/sonorant.)

But for now, let <e> be <e>; <ie> could be <ieh> oe <ie>.

Next, the diphthong <ao> would be replaced by <au>; I just like it better,
and it's more phonetically accurate.  (Except the <ao> digraph makes it look
distinctively 'Chinese' when read...)

Another change.  Get rid of <ong> and make it <ung>.  It's more accurate
anyway, and it's written in Bopomofo as <u-eng>.  Likewise, <iong>, which is
marked in Bopomofo as <ü-eng>, should be <üng>, or better yet <iung> (see
the next paragraph).

Now if we're dealing with seven-bit, why not use <iu> instead of <ü>
(u-umlaut)?  There might be a couple overlapping syllables now, but there's
a way to deal with it somehow.

If <e> (schwa) is unwritten, then the following 'rhymes' (syllable-final
groups) would result:

e > zero (just the initial consonant)
en > n
eng > ng
er > r  (this never has an initial consonant)
Note that <ei> is unchanged, or it would be confused with <i>.

Finally, tones.  A numeral 1, 2, 3 or 4, full-size or superscript, is one
option.  Or better yet, use ASCII accent marks instead:

Tone one (high): no marking  (_ma_)
Tone two (rising): apostrophe (_ma'_)
Tone three (dip): tilde (_ma~_) (I don't like using caron ^)
Tone four (fall): grave (_ma`_)

To distinguish separate syllables, just use a hyphen: _xi'an_ [sji?an] is
now _xi-an_, to avoid confusion with _xian_ [sjien].

Also, I analyzed all the possible syllables from (great website
for sinophiles!), and came up with these facts:

Labials (b p f m) cannot be followed by <u> and another vowel.
Alveolar sibilants (z c s) cannot be followed by <i> and another vowel.
Retroflexes (zh ch sh r) cannot be followed by <i> and another vowel.
Palatized sibilants (j q x) must be followed by <i> (or <ü>, u-umlaut, but I
changed it to <iu> as above).
Velars (g k h) cannot be followed by <i> and another vowel.

So could it be possible to merge the palatals with one of the other three

You have digraphs for the retroflexes.  When palatized, they sound more like
the palatized sibilants.  So why not merge them?  Now you have:

<zh> > <j>
<ch> > <q>
<sh> > <x>
<r> is unchanged because it has no palatal equivalent

The result: _shen_ becomes _xen_, _zhao_ becomes _jao_ (or better yet
_jau_), and _chong_ becomes _qong_.  But now we have a problem...

_chi_ becomes _qi_, _zhi_ becomes _ji_, and _shi_ becomes _xi_ -- but
there's already a _qi_, _ji_ and _shi_!  What do we do?  Remember that
lonely <er> syllable which never begins with anything?  Turns out that the
<i> after retroflexes sounds like English "er", and Mandarin has the same
value for <er>.  So let that be our new vowel!  Now we have _qer_, _jer_ and
_xer_; no more ambiguity!

Oh yeah, and there's also _rer_.  Cute.

(If you were to eliminate back <e> as I suggested earlier, you'd have _qr_,
_jr_, _xr_... and _rr_!)

Does this interest anybody?
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