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USAGE: Yet another try at Pinyin-compatible tonal spelling for Mandarin

From:John Cowan <cowan@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 18, 2001, 4:53
The virtues of tonal spelling are well-known for languages like Hmong, which can
add otherwise unused finals like -b and -s to indicate the tone.  Mandarin has
too many sounds for that: the standard Pinyin orthography uses every basic
Latin letter except v, and five diacritics: symbols for tones 1, 2, 3, and 4,
and diaeresis over u when it represents /y/.

Gwoyeu Romatzyh is a tonal spelling requiring no diacritics, but it is very
complex and messy.  This proposal is meant to add the virtues of diacritic-lless
spelling to the comparative simplicity of Pinyin.

The tonal McGuffin here is to represent the long tones 1 and 3 by a doubled
vowel, and the low(-ending) tones 3 and 4 by an -h suffix.  Thus
ma1, ma2, ma3, and ma4 are respectively maa, ma, maah, mah.
The h is placed after the final (hen3 is written heenh, shang4 as shangh).
However, the retroflex r remains after the h, since it is not really
part of the final, except in the case of the final "er".

A few special cases:

1) If one syllable of a compound word ends in h, and the next begins
with a, e, o, or u, then an apostrophe is inserted, similar to the
aprostrophe used between finals ending in -n and initials beginning with g.

2) In syllables like dui, where the main vowel is not written, it is
"doubled" by being written: so dui2 is dui, but dui1 is duei.

In Pinyin, the u-umlaut is used only after l and n; in all other cases,
its presence can be inferred from the other letters, and it is written u.
In this proposal, the forms lyu and nyu are used.

3) Toneless syllables are written as if in tone 2.

Here's a sentence:

Waihbian jinhlaile yi ge ren liaangh ge hong yaanhjing, yi fuh dah yuan
liaanh, daih zhe yi ge xiaaoh maohzi, taa xingh Xiah.

John Cowan     
Please leave your values        |       Check your assumptions.  In fact,
   at the front desk.           |          check your assumptions at the door.
     --sign in Paris hotel      |            --Miles Vorkosigan


Douglas Koller, Latin & French <latinfrench@...>