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Hanyu Pinyin (汉语拼音, 漢語拼音, Hànyǔ Pīnyīn), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC), and Singapore.Template:NoteTagTemplate:NoteTag It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

The word Template:Transl (Template:Zh) means 'the spoken language of the Han people', while Template:Transl (Template:Zh) literally means 'spelled sounds'.[1]

The pinyin system was developed in the 1950s by a group of Chinese linguists including Zhou Youguang[2] and was based on earlier forms of romanizations of Chinese. It was published by the Chinese government in 1958 and revised several times.[3] The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as an international standard in 1982[4] and was followed by the United Nations in 1986.[2] Attempts to make pinyin standard in Taiwan occurred in 2002 and 2009, but confusion and politicking between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) meant that "today Taiwan has no standardized spelling system", and that by 2019 "alphabetic spellings in Taiwan are marked more by a lack of system than the presence of one."[5][6][7] For the most part however, it remains one of the several rival romanization systems in use, and speakers in Taiwan are generally able to read and understand pinyin, as it is officially used as standard in business (especially with mainland China) and education.[5][8]


In Yiling, Yichang, Hubei, text on road signs appears both in Chinese characters and in Hanyu Pinyin

When a foreign writing system with one set of coding/decoding system is taken to write a language, certain compromises may have to be made. The result is that the decoding systems used in some foreign languages will enable non-native speakers to produce sounds more closely resembling the target language than will the coding/decoding system used by other foreign languages. Native speakers of English will decode pinyin spellings to fairly close approximations of Mandarin except in the case of certain speech sounds that are not ordinarily produced by most native speakers of English: j Template:IPAc-cmn, q Template:IPAc-cmn, x Template:IPAc-cmn, z Template:IPAc-cmn, c Template:IPAc-cmn, zh Template:IPAc-cmn, h Template:IPAc-cmn and r Template:IPAc-cmn exhibiting the greatest discrepancies.

In this system, the correspondence between the Roman letter and the sound is sometimes idiosyncratic, though not necessarily more so than the way the Latin script is employed in other languages. For example, the aspiration distinction between b, d, g and p, t, k is similar to that of these syllable-initial consonants English (in which the two sets are however also differentiated by voicing), but not to that of French. Letters z and c also have that distinction, pronounced as Template:IPA and Template:IPA (which is reminiscent of these letters being used to represent the phoneme Template:IPA in the German language and Latin-script-using Slavic languages, respectively). From s, z, c come the digraphs sh, zh, ch by analogy with English sh, ch. Although this introduces the novel combination zh, it is internally consistent in how the two series are related. In the x, j, q series, the pinyin use of x is similar to its use in Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Basque and Maltese and the pinyin q is akin to its value in Albanian; both pinyin and Albanian pronunciations may sound similar to the ch to the untrained ear. Pinyin vowels are pronounced in a similar way to vowels in Romance languages.

The pronunciation and spelling of Chinese words are generally given in terms of initials and finals, which represent the segmental phonemic portion of the language, rather than letter by letter. Initials are initial consonants, while finals are all possible combinations of medials (semivowels coming before the vowel), a nucleus vowel and coda (final vowel or consonant).


Background: romanization of Chinese before 1949[]

In 1605, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci published Xizi Qiji (Template:Zh) in Beijing.[9] 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 Template:Transl (Template:Zh) at Hangzhou.[10] 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.[11]

One of the earliest Chinese thinkers to relate Western alphabets to Chinese was late Ming to early Qing dynasty scholar-official, Fang Yizhi (Template:Zh; 1611–1671).[12]

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.Template:Which? 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.[11]


Main article: Wade–Giles

The Wade–Giles system was produced by Thomas Wade in 1859, and further improved by Herbert Giles in the Chinese–English Dictionary of 1892. It was popular and used in English-language publications outside China until 1979.[13]

Sin Wenz[]

Main article: Latinxua Sin Wenz

In the early 1930s, Communist Party of China leaders trained in Moscow introduced a phonetic alphabet using Roman letters which had been developed in the Soviet Oriental Institute of Leningrad and was originally intended to improve literacy in the Russian Far East.[14]Template:NoteTag This Sin Wenz or "New Writing"[15] was much more linguistically sophisticated than earlier alphabets, but with the major exception that it did not indicate tones of Chinese.[16]

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 Chinese Communist Party, other prominent supporters included Dr. Sun Yat-sen's son, Sun Fo; Cai Yuanpei, the country's most prestigious educator; Tao Xingzhi, a leading educational reformer; and Lu Xun. Over thirty journals soon appeared written in Sin Wenz, plus large numbers of translations, biographies (including Lincoln, Franklin, Edison, Ford, and Charlie Chaplin), some contemporary Chinese literature, and a spectrum of textbooks. In 1940, the movement reached an apex when Mao's Border Region Government declared that the Sin Wenz had the same legal status as traditional characters in government and public documents. Many educators and political leaders looked forward to the day when they would be universally accepted and completely replace Chinese characters. Opposition arose, however, because the system was less well adapted to writing regional languages, and therefore would require learning Mandarin. Sin Wenz fell into relative disuse during the following years.[17]

Yale romanization[]

Main article: Yale romanization of Mandarin

In 1943, the U.S. military engaged Yale University to develop a romanization of Mandarin Chinese for its pilots flying over China. The resulting system is very close to pinyin, but does not use English letters in unfamiliar ways; for example, pinyin x for Template:IPAc-cmn is written as sy in the Yale system. Medial semivowels are written with y and w (instead of pinyin i and u), and apical vowels (syllabic consonants) with r or z. Accent marks are used to indicate tone.

Emergence and history of Hanyu Pinyin[]

Pinyin was created by Chinese linguists, like Zhou Youguang who was an economist,[2] as part of a Chinese government project in the 1950s. Zhou, often called "the father of pinyin,"[2][18][19][20] worked as a banker in New York when he decided to return to China to help rebuild the country after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. He became an economics professor in Shanghai, and in 1955, when China's Ministry of Education created a Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language, Premier Zhou Enlai assigned Zhou Youguang the task of developing a new romanization system, despite the fact that he was not a professional linguist.[2]

Hanyu Pinyin was based on several existing systems: Gwoyeu Romatzyh of 1928, Latinxua Sin Wenz of 1931, and the diacritic markings from zhuyin (bopomofo).[21] "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."[22]

A draft was published on February 12, 1956. The first edition of Hanyu Pinyin was approved and adopted at the Fifth Session of the 1st National People's Congress on February 11, 1958. It was then introduced to primary schools as a way to teach Standard Chinese pronunciation and used to improve the literacy rate among adults.[23]

During the height of the Cold War, the use of pinyin system over the Yale romanization outside of China was regarded as a political statement or identification with the communist Chinese regime.[24] Beginning in the early 1980s, Western publications addressing Mainland China began using the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system instead of earlier romanization systems;[25] this change followed the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the PRC in 1979.[26] In 2001, the PRC Government issued the National Common Language Law, providing a legal basis for applying pinyin.[23] The current specification of the orthographic rules is laid down in the National Standard GB/T 16159–2012.[27]

Initials and finals[]

Unlike European languages, clusters of letters — initials (Template:Zh) and finals (Template:Zh) — and not consonant and vowel letters, form the fundamental elements in pinyin (and most other phonetic systems used to describe the Han language). Every Mandarin syllable can be spelled with exactly one initial followed by one final, except for the special syllable er or when a trailing -r is considered part of a syllable (see below, and see erhua). The latter case, though a common practice in some sub-dialects, is rarely used in official publications.

Even though most initials contain a consonant, finals are not always simple vowels, especially in compound finals (Template:Zh), i.e. when a "medial" is placed in front of the final. For example, the medials Template:IPA and Template:IPA are pronounced with such tight openings at the beginning of a final that some native Chinese speakers (especially when singing) pronounce (Template:Zh, clothes, officially pronounced Template:IPA) as Template:IPA and wéi (Template:Zh, to enclose, officially pronounced Template:IPA) as Template:IPA or Template:IPA. 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.

Labial Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-palatal Velar
Plosive Template:Small [[Voiceless bilabial plosive|b Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless alveolar plosive|d Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless velar plosive|g Template:IPA]]
Template:Small [[Voiceless bilabial plosive|p Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless alveolar plosive|t Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless velar plosive|k Template:IPA]]
Nasal [[Bilabial nasal|m Template:IPA]] [[Alveolar nasal|n Template:IPA]]
Affricate Template:Small [[Voiceless alveolar affricate|z Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless retroflex affricate|zh Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate|j Template:IPA]]
Template:Small [[Voiceless alveolar affricate|c Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless retroflex affricate|ch Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate|q Template:IPA]]
Fricative [[Voiceless labiodental fricative|f Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless alveolar sibilant|s Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless retroflex sibilant|sh Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless alveolo-palatal sibilant|x Template:IPA]] [[Voiceless velar fricative|h Template:IPA]]
Liquid [[Alveolar lateral approximant|l Template:IPA]] r [[Voiced retroflex approximant|Template:IPA]]~[[Voiced retroflex fricative|Template:IPA]]
Semivowel2 y [[Palatal approximant|Template:IPA]]/[[Labialized palatal approximant|Template:IPA]]1 and w [[Labio-velar approximant|Template:IPA]]

1 y is pronounced Template:IPA (a labial-palatal approximant) before u.
2 The letters w and y are not included in the table of initials in the official pinyin system. They are an orthographic convention for the medials i, u and ü when no initial is present. When i, u, or ü are finals and no initial is present, they are spelled yi, wu, and yu, respectively.

The conventional lexicographical order (excluding w and y), derived from the zhuyin system ("bopomofo"), is:

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

According to Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, zh, ch, and sh can be abbreviated as , 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.


Template:Mandarin vowels 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[28]

The only syllable-final consonants in Standard Chinese are -n and -ng, and -r, the last of which is attached as a grammatical suffix. A Chinese syllable ending with any other consonant either is from a non-Mandarin language (a southern Chinese language such as Cantonese, or a minority language of China; possibly reflecting final consonants in Old Chinese), or indicates the use of a non-pinyin romanization system (where final consonants may be used to indicate tones).

Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA
Medial Template:IPA


Template:IPA Template:IPA
Template:IPA Template:IPA
-uo 3
Template:IPA Template:IPA
-üe 2
-ün 2
-üan 2

1 Template:IPA is written er. For other finals formed by the suffix -r, pinyin does not use special orthography; one simply appends r to the final that it is added to, without regard for any sound changes that may take place along the way. For information on sound changes related to final r, please see Erhua#Rules.
2 ü is written as u after y, j, q, or x.
3 uo is written as o after b, p, m, f, or w.

Technically, i, u, ü without a following vowel are finals, not medials, and therefore take the tone marks, but they are more concisely displayed as above. In addition, ê Template:IPA (Template:Zh) and syllabic nasals m (Template:Zh, Template:Zh), n (Template:Zh, Template:Zh), ng (Template:Zh, Template:Zh) are used as interjections.

According to Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, ng can be abbreviated with a shorthand of ŋ. However, this shorthand is rarely used due to difficulty of entering them on computers.

The ü sound[]

An umlaut is placed over the letter u when it occurs after the initials l and n when necessary in order to represent the sound [y]. This is necessary in order to distinguish the front high rounded vowel in (e.g. Template:Zh) from the back high rounded vowel in lu (e.g. Template:Zh). Tonal markers are added on top of the umlaut, 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 Template:Lang/Template:Lang (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 the umlaut to distinguish between chü (pinyin ju) and chu (pinyin zhu), this ambiguity does not arise with pinyin, so the more convenient form ju is used instead of . Genuine ambiguities only happen with nu/ and lu/, 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 or , particularly people with the surname Template:Lang (), a fairly common surname, particularly compared to the surnames Template:Lang (), Template:Lang (), Template:Lang () and Template:Lang (). 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.

Approximation from English pronunciation[]

Template:Inline audio Most rules given here in terms of English pronunciation are approximations, as several of these sounds do not correspond directly to sounds in English.

Pronunciation of initials[]

Pinyin IPA English approximation[31] Explanation
b Template:IPAblink spark unaspirated p, as in spark
p Template:IPAblink pay strongly aspirated p, as in pit
m Template:IPAblink may as in English mummy
f Template:IPAblink fair as in English fun
d Template:IPAblink stop unaspirated t, as in stop
t Template:IPAblink take strongly aspirated t, as in top
n Template:IPAblink nay as in English nit
l Template:IPAblink lay as in English love
g Template:IPAblink skill unaspirated k, as in skill
k Template:IPAblink kay strongly aspirated k, as in kill
h Template:IPAblink, Template:IPAblink loch Varies between hat and Scottish loch.
j Template:IPAblink churchyard Alveo-palatal. No equivalent in English, but similar to an unaspirated "-chy-" sound when said quickly. Like q, but unaspirated. Is similar to the English name of the letter G, but curl the tip of the tongue downwards to stick it at the back of the teeth.
q Template:IPAblink punch yourself Alveo-palatal. No equivalent in English. Like punch yourself, with the lips spread wide as when one says ee. Curl the tip of the tongue downwards to stick it at the back of the teeth and strongly aspirate.
x Template:IPAblink push yourself Alveo-palatal. No equivalent in English. Like -sh y-, with the lips spread as when one says ee and with the tip of the tongue curled downwards and stuck to the back of the teeth.
zh Template:IPAblink nurture Unaspirated ch. Similar to hatching but retroflex, or marching in American English. Voiced in a toneless syllable.
ch Template:IPAblink church Similar to chin, but retroflex.
sh Template:IPAblink shirt Similar to shoe but retroflex, or marsh in American English.
r [[[:Template:IPA link]]~Template:IPA link] ray No equivalent in English, but similar to a sound between r in reduce and s in measure but with the tongue curled upward against the top of the mouth (i.e. retroflex).
z Template:IPAblink pizza unaspirated c, similar to something between suds but voiceless, unless in a toneless syllable.
c Template:IPAblink hats like the English ts in cats, but strongly aspirated, very similar to the Czech, Polish, Esperanto, and Slovak c.
s Template:IPAblink say as in sun
w Template:IPAblink way as in water. Before an e or a it is sometimes pronounced like v as in violin.*
y Template:IPAblink, Template:IPAblink yes as in yes. Before a u, pronounced with rounded lips, as if pronouncing German ü.*
* Note on y and w

Y and w are equivalent to the semivowel medials i, u, and ü (see below). They are spelled differently when there is no initial consonant in order to mark a new syllable: fanguan is fan-guan, while fangwan is fang-wan (and equivalent to *fang-uan). With this convention, an apostrophe only needs to be used to mark an initial a, e, or o: Xi'an (two syllables: Template:IPA) vs. xian (one syllable: Template:IPA). 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 Template:IPA or Template:IPA sound at the beginning of such words—that is, yi Template:IPA or Template:IPA, wu Template:IPA or Template:IPA, yu Template:IPA or Template:IPA,—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 (') (Template:Zh) is used before a syllable starting with a vowel (Template:Lang, Template:Lang, or Template:Lang) in a multiple-syllable word when the syllable does not start the word, unless the syllable immediately follows a hyphen or other dash. For example, Template:Lang is written as Xi'an or Xī'ān, and Template:Lang is written as Tian'e or Tiān'é, but Template:Lang is written "dì-èr", without an apostrophe.[32] This apostrophe is not used in the Taipei Metro names.[33]

Apostrophes (as well as hyphens and tone marks) are omitted on Chinese passports.[34]

Pronunciation of finals[]

Template:IPA vowels 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 [[[:Template:IPA link]]~Template:IPA link], [[[:Template:IPA link]]~Template:IPA link] (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 Template:IPAblink a like English father, but a bit more fronted
e Template:IPA-cmn e a back, unrounded vowel (similar to English duh, but not as open). Pronounced as a sequence Template:IPA.
ai Template:IPA ai like English eye, but a bit lighter
ei Template:IPA ei as in hey
ao Template:IPA ao approximately as in cow; the a is much more audible than the o
ou Template:IPA ou as in North American English so
an Template:IPA an like British English ban, but more central
en Template:IPA en as in taken
ang Template:IPA 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 Template:IPA eng like e in en above but with ng appended
ong Template:IPA (n/a) starts with the vowel sound in book and ends with the velar nasal sound in sing. Varies between Template:IPA and Template:IPA depending on the speaker.
er Template:IPA er Similar to the sound in bar in English. Can also be pronounced Template:IPA depending on the speaker.
Finals beginning with i- (y-)
i Template:IPAblink yi like English bee
ia Template:IPA ya as i + a; like English yard
ie Template:IPA ye as i + ê where the e (compare with the ê interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter
iao Template:IPA yao as i + ao
iu Template:IPA you as i + ou
ian Template:IPA yan as i + an; like English yen. Varies between Template:IPA and Template:IPA depending on the speaker.
in Template:IPA yin as i + n
iang Template:IPA yang as i + ang
ing Template:IPA ying as i + ng
iong Template:IPA yong as i + ong. Varies between Template:IPA and Template:IPA depending on the speaker.
Finals beginning with u- (w-)
u Template:IPAblink wu like English oo
ua Template:IPA wa as u + a
uo, o Template:IPA 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 Template:IPA wai as u + ai, as in English why
ui Template:IPA wei as u + ei
uan Template:IPA wan as u + an
un Template:IPA wen as u + en; as in English won
uang Template:IPA wang as u + ang
(n/a) Template:IPA weng as u + eng
Finals beginning with ü- (yu-)
u, ü Template:IPA-cmn yu as in German über or French lune.

(Pronounced as English ee with rounded lips)

ue, üe Template:IPA yue as ü + ê where the e (compare with the ê interjection) is pronounced shorter and lighter
uan Template:IPA yuan as ü + an. Varies between Template:IPA and Template:IPA depending on the speaker.
un Template:IPA yun as ü + n
ê Template:IPAblink (n/a) as in bet
o Template:IPAblink (n/a) approximately as in British English office; the lips are much more rounded
io Template:IPA yo as i + o


File:Pinyin Tone Chart.svg

Relative pitch changes of the four tones

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, e.g. the use of a Latin alpha (ɑ) rather than the standard style (a) found in most fonts, or g often written with a single-storey ɡ. The rules of Hanyu Pinyin, however, specify no such practice.[35]Template:Rp

  1. The first tone (flat or high-level tone) is represented by a macron (ˉ) added to the pinyin vowel:
    ā ē ī ō ū ǖ Ā Ē Ī Ō Ū Ǖ
  2. The second tone (rising or high-rising tone) is denoted by an acute accent (ˊ):
    á é í ó ú ǘ Á É Í Ó Ú Ǘ
  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 ignorance or font limitations.
    ǎ 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 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 e i o u ü A E I O U Ü
In dictionaries, neutral tone may be indicated by a dot preceding the syllable; for example, ·ma. When a neutral tone syllable has an alternative pronunciation in another tone, a combination of tone marks may be used: zhī·dào (Template:Lang).[36]

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 Template:LangTemplate:Lang, an interrogative marker.

Tone Tone Mark Number added to end of syllable
in place of tone mark
Example using
tone mark
Example using
First macronTemplate:IPA ) 1 ma1 Template:IPA
Second acute accentTemplate:IPA ) 2 ma2 Template:IPA
Third caronTemplate:IPA ) 3 ma3 Template:IPA
Fourth grave accentTemplate:IPA ) 4 ma4 Template:IPA
"Neutral" No mark
or middle dot before syllable ( ·Template:IPA )
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:[37]

  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 .

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 serves as a near-semi-vowel, this letter does not take the tone marker. Likewise, if the spelling of a diphthong ends with o or u representing a near-semi-vowel (as in ao or ou), this letter does not receive a tone marker. In a triphthong spelled with three of a, e, i, o, and u (with i or u replaced by y or w at the start of a syllable), the first and third letters coincide with near-semi-vowels and hence do not receive the tone marker (as in iao or uai or iou). But if no letter is written to represent a triphthong's middle (non-semi-vowel) sound (as in ui or iu), then the tone marker goes on the final (second) vowel letter.

Using tone colors[]

In addition to tone number and mark, tone color has been suggested as a visual aid for learning. Although there are no formal standards, there are a number of different color schemes in use, Dummitt's being one of the first.

Tone color schemes
Scheme Tone 1 Tone 2 Tone 3 Tone 4 Neutral tone
Dummitt[38] red orange green blue none/black
MDBG red orange green blue black
UnimelbTemplate:Efn blue green purple red grey
Hanping[39] blue green orange red grey
Pleco red green blue purple grey
ThomasTemplate:Efn green blue red black 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 Template:Lang (nǐhǎo, hello), the first syllable is pronounced with the second tone — this is called tone sandhi. In pinyin, words like "hello" are still written with two third tones (nǐhǎo).

Orthographic rules[]


Template:See also

The Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet lists the letters of pinyin, along with their pronunciations, as:

List of pinyin letters
Letter Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz
Prononciation (pinyin) a bê cê dê e êf gê ha yi jie kê êl êm nê o pê qiu ar ês tê wu vê wa xi ya zê
Bopomofo transcription ㄧㄝ ㄧㄡ

Pinyin differs from other romanizations in several aspects, such as the following:

  • Syllables starting with u are written as w in place of u (e.g., *uan is written as wan). Standalone u is written as wu.
  • Syllables starting with i are written as y in place of i (e.g., *ian is written as yan). Standalone i is written as yi.
  • Syllables starting with ü are written as yu in place of ü (e.g., *üe is written as yue). Standalone ü is written as yu.
  • ü is written as u when there is no ambiguity (such as ju, qu, and xu) but as ü when there are corresponding u syllables (such as and ). If there are corresponding u syllables, it is often replaced with v on a computer to make it easier to type on a standard keyboard.
  • After by a consonant, iou, uei, and uen are simplified as iu, ui, and un, which do not represent the actual pronunciation.
  • As in zhuyin, syllables that are actually pronounced as buo, puo, muo, and fuo are given a separate representation: bo, po, mo, and fo.
  • The apostrophe (') is used before a syllable starting with a vowel (a, o, or e) in a syllable other than the first of a word, the syllable being most commonly realized as Template:IPA unless it immediately follows a hyphen or other dash.[32] That is done to remove ambiguity that could arise, as in Xi'an, which consists of the two syllables xi (Template:Zh) an (Template:Zh), compared to such words as xian (Template:Zh). (The ambiguity does not occur when tone marks are used since both tone marks in "Xīān" unambiguously show that the word has two syllables. However, even with tone marks, the city is usually spelled with an apostrophe as "Xī'ān".)
  • Eh alone is written as ê; elsewhere as e. Schwa is always written as e.
  • Zh, ch, and sh can be abbreviated as , ĉ, and ŝ (z, c, s with a circumflex). However, the shorthands are rarely used because of the difficulty of entering them on computers and are confined mainly to Esperanto keyboard layouts. Early drafts and some published material used diacritic hooks below instead: Template:IPA (Template:IPA/Template:IPA), Template:IPA, Template:IPA (Template:IPA).[40]
  • Ng has the uncommon shorthand of ŋ, which was also used in early drafts.
  • Early drafts also contained the letter ɥ or ч, borrowed from the Cyrillic script, in place of later j.[40]
  • The letter v is unused, except in spelling foreign languages, languages of minority nationalities, and some dialects, despite a conscious effort to distribute letters more evenly than in Western languages. However, the ease of typing into a computer causes the v to be sometimes used to replace ü. (The Scheme table above maps the letter to bopomofo ㄪ, which typically maps to Template:IPAslink.)

Most of the above are used to avoid ambiguity when words of more than one syllable are written in pinyin. For example, uenian is written as wenyan because it is not clear which syllables make up uenian; uen-ian, uen-i-an, u-en-i-an, u-e-nian, and u-e-ni-an are all possible combinations, but wenyan is unambiguous since we, nya, etc. do not exist in pinyin. See the pinyin table article for a summary of possible pinyin syllables (not including tones).

Words, capitalization, initialisms and punctuation[]


Many writers are not yet aware of the rules for dividing text into words by spaces, and either put a space after each syllable, or run all words together. The manufacturer of this image's blankets put unnecessary spaces into the city name, 'Bishikaike' (which is the correct pinyin for Template:Lang, 'Bishkek') on the bottom line, but wrote the English text in the arc on top with no spaces at all.

Although Chinese characters represent single syllables, Mandarin Chinese is a polysyllabic language. Spacing in pinyin is usually based on words, and not on single syllables. However, there are often ambiguities in partitioning a word.

The Basic Rules of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Orthography (Template:Zh) were put into effect in 1988 by the National Educational Commission (Template:Zh) and the National Language Commission (Template:Zh).[41] These rules became a Guóbiāo recommendation in 1996[41][42] and were updated in 2012.[43]

  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 (Template:Zh, person); péngyou (Template:Zh, friend); qiǎokèlì (Template:Zh, chocolate)
    2. Combined meaning (2 or 3 characters): Same goes for words combined of two words to one meaning: hǎifēng (Template:Zh, sea breeze); wèndá (Template:Zh, question and answer); quánguó (Template:Zh, nationwide); chángyòngcí (Template:Zh, common words)
    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 (Template:Zh, seamless steel-tube); huánjìng bǎohù guīhuà (Template:Zh, environmental protection planning); gāoměngsuānjiǎ (Template:Zh, potassium permanganate)
  2. Duplicated words
    1. AA: Duplicated characters (AA) are written together: rénrén (Template:Zh, everybody), kànkan (Template:Zh, to have a look), niánnián (Template:Zh, every year)
    2. ABAB: Two characters duplicated (ABAB) are written separated: yánjiū yánjiū (Template:Zh, to study, to research), xuěbái xuěbái (Template:Zh, white as snow)
    3. AABB: Characters in the AABB schema are written together: láiláiwǎngwǎng (Template:Zh, come and go), qiānqiānwànwàn (Template:Zh, numerous)
  3. Prefixes (Template:Zh) and Suffixes (Template:Zh): Words accompanied by prefixes such as (Template:Zh, vice), zǒng (Template:Zh, chief), fēi (Template:Zh, non-), fǎn (Template:Zh, anti-), chāo (Template:Zh, ultra-), lǎo (Template:Zh, old), ā (Template:Zh, used before names to indicate familiarity), (Template:Zh, -able), (Template:Zh, -less) and bàn (Template:Zh, semi-) and suffixes such as zi (Template:Zh, noun suffix), r (Template:Zh, diminutive suffix), tou (Template:Zh, noun suffix), xìng (Template:Zh, -ness, -ity), zhě (Template:Zh, -er, -ist), yuán (Template:Zh, person), jiā (Template:Zh, -er, -ist), shǒu (Template:Zh, person skilled in a field), huà (Template:Zh, -ize) and men (Template:Zh, plural marker) are written together: fùbùzhǎng (Template:Zh, vice minister), chéngwùyuán (Template:Zh, conductor), háizimen (Template:Zh, children)
  4. Nouns and names (Template:Zh)
    1. Words of position are separated: mén wài (Template:Zh, outdoor), hé li (Template:Zh, under the river), huǒchē shàngmian (Template:Zh, on the train), Huáng Hé yǐnán (Template:Zh, south of the Yellow River)
      1. Exceptions are words traditionally connected: tiānshang (Template:Zh, in the sky or outerspace), dìxia (Template:Zh, on the ground), kōngzhōng (Template:Zh, in the air), hǎiwài (Template:Zh, overseas)
    2. Surnames are separated from the given names, each capitalized: Lǐ Huá (Template:Zh), Zhāng Sān (Template:Zh). If the surname and/or given name consists of two syllables, it should be written as one: Zhūgě Kǒngmíng (Template:Zh).
    3. Titles following the name are separated and are not capitalized: Wáng bùzhǎng (Template:Zh, Minister Wang), Lǐ xiānsheng (Template:Zh, Mr. Li), Tián zhǔrèn (Template:Zh, Director Tian), Zhào tóngzhì (Template:Zh, Comrade Zhao).
    4. The forms of addressing people with prefixes such as Lǎo (Template:Zh), Xiǎo (Template:Zh), (Template:Zh) and Ā (Template:Zh) are capitalized: Xiǎo Liú (Template:Zh, [young] Ms./Mr. Liu), Dà Lǐ (Template:Zh, [great; elder] Mr. Li), Ā Sān (Template:Zh, Ah San), Lǎo Qián (Template:Zh, [senior] Mr. Qian), Lǎo Wú (Template:Zh, [senior] Mr. Wu)
      1. Exceptions include Kǒngzǐ (Template:Zh, Confucius), Bāogōng (Template:Zh, Judge Bao), Xīshī (Template:Zh, Xishi), Mèngchángjūn (Template:Zh, Lord Mengchang)
    5. Geographical names of China: Běijīng Shì (Template:Zh, city of Beijing), Héběi Shěng (Template:Zh, province of Hebei), Yālù Jiāng (Template:Zh, Yalu River), Tài Shān (Template:Zh, Mount Tai), Dòngtíng Hú (Template:Zh, Dongting Lake), Qióngzhōu Hǎixiá (Template:Zh, Qiongzhou Strait)
      1. Monosyllabic prefixes and suffixes are written together with their related part: Dōngsì Shítiáo (Template:Zh, Dongsi 10th Alley)
      2. Common geographical nouns that have become part of proper nouns are written together: Hēilóngjiāng (Template:Zh, Heilongjiang)
    6. Non-Chinese names are written in Hanyu Pinyin: Āpèi Āwàngjìnměi (Template:Zh, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme); Dōngjīng (Template:Zh, Tokyo)
  5. Verbs (Template:Zh): Verbs and their suffixes -zhe (Template:Zh), -le (Template:Zh) or -guo ((Template:Zh) are written as one: kànzhe (Template:Zh, seeing), jìnxíngguo (Template:Zh, have been implemented). Le as it appears in the end of a sentence is separated though: Huǒchē dào le. (Template:Zh, The train [has] arrived).
    1. Verbs and their objects are separated: kàn xìn (Template:Zh, read a letter), chī yú (Template:Zh, eat fish), kāi wánxiào (Template:Zh, to be kidding).
    2. If verbs and their complements are each monosyllabic, they are written together; if not, they are separated: gǎohuài (Template:Zh, to make broken), dǎsǐ (Template:Zh, hit to death), huàwéi (Template:Zh, to become), zhěnglǐ hǎo (Template:Zh, to sort out), gǎixiě wéi (Template:Zh, to rewrite as)
  6. Adjectives (Template:Zh): A monosyllabic adjective and its reduplication are written as one: mēngmēngliàng (Template:Zh, dim), liàngtángtáng (Template:Zh, shining bright)
    1. Complements of size or degree such as xiē (Template:Zh), yīxiē (Template:Zh), diǎnr (Template:Zh) and yīdiǎnr (Template:Zh) are written separated: dà xiē (Template:Zh), a little bigger), kuài yīdiǎnr (Template:Zh, a bit faster)
  7. Pronouns (Template:Zh)
    1. Personal pronouns and interrogative pronouns are separated from other words: Wǒ ài Zhōngguó. (Template:Zh, I love China); Shéi shuō de? (Template:Zh, Who said it?)
    2. The demonstrative pronoun zhè (Template:Zh, this), (Template:Zh, that) and the question pronoun (Template:Zh, which) are separated: zhè rén (Template:Zh, this person), nà cì huìyì (Template:Zh, that meeting), nǎ zhāng bàozhǐ (Template:Zh, which newspaper)
      1. Exception—If zhè, or are followed by diǎnr (Template:Zh), bān (Template:Zh), biān (Template:Zh), shí (Template:Zh), huìr (Template:Zh), (Template:Zh), me (Template:Zh) or the general classifier ge (Template:Zh), they are written together: nàlǐ (Template:Zh, there), zhèbiān (Template:Zh, over here), zhège (Template:Zh, this)
  8. Numerals (Template:Zh) and measure words (Template:Zh)
    1. Numbers and words like (Template:Zh, each), měi (Template:Zh, each), mǒu (Template:Zh, any), běn (Template:Zh, this), gāi (Template:Zh, that), (Template:Zh, my, our) and (Template:Zh, your) are separated from the measure words following them: liǎng gè rén (Template:Zh, two people), gè guó (Template:Zh, every nation), měi nián (Template:Zh, every year), mǒu gōngchǎng (Template:Zh, a certain factory), wǒ xiào (Template:Zh, our school)
    2. Numbers up to 100 are written as single words: sānshísān (Template:Zh, thirty-three). Above that, the hundreds, thousands, etc. are written as separate words: jiǔyì qīwàn èrqiān sānbǎi wǔshíliù (Template:Zh, nine hundred million, seventy-two thousand, three hundred fifty-six). Arabic numerals are kept as Arabic numerals: 635 fēnjī (Template:Zh, extension 635)
    3. According to Template:Lang, the (Template:Zh) used in ordinal numerals is followed by a hyphen: - (Template:Zh, first), -356 (Template:Zh, 356th). The hyphen should not be used if the word in which (Template:Lang) and the numeral appear does not refer to an ordinal number in the context. For example: Dìwǔ (Template:Lang, a Chinese compound surname).[44][45] The chū (Template:Zh) in front of numbers one to ten is written together with the number: chūshí (Template:Zh, tenth day)
    4. Numbers representing month and day are hyphenated: wǔ-sì (Template:Zh, May fourth), yīèr-jiǔ (Template:Zh, December ninth)
    5. Words of approximations such as duō (Template:Zh), lái (Template:Zh) and (Template:Zh) are separated from numerals and measure words: yībǎi duō gè (Template:Zh, around a hundred); shí lái wàn gè (Template:Zh, around a hundred thousand); jǐ jiā rén (Template:Zh, a few families)
      1. Shíjǐ (Template:Zh, more than ten) and jǐshí (Template:Zh, tens) are written together: shíjǐ gè rén (Template:Zh, more than ten people); jǐshí (Template:Zh, tens of steel pipes)
    6. Approximations with numbers or units that are close together are hyphenated: sān-wǔ tiān (Template:Zh, three to five days), qiān-bǎi cì (Template:Zh, thousands of times)
  9. Other function words (Template:Zh) are separated from other words
    1. Adverbs (Template:Zh): hěn hǎo (Template:Zh, very good), zuì kuài (Template:Zh, fastest), fēicháng dà (Template:Zh, extremely big)
    2. Prepositions (Template:Zh): zài qiánmiàn (Template:Zh, in front)
    3. Conjunctions (Template:Zh): nǐ hé wǒ (Template:Zh, you and I/me), Nǐ lái háishi bù lái? (Template:Zh, Are you coming or not?)
    4. "Constructive auxiliaries" (Template:Zh) such as de (Template:Zh), zhī (Template:Zh) and suǒ (Template:Zh): mànmàn de zou (Template:Zh), go slowly)
      1. A monosyllabic word can also be written together with de (Template:Zh): wǒ de shū / wǒde shū (Template:Zh, my book)
    5. Modal auxiliaries at the end of a sentence: Nǐ zhīdào ma? (Template:Zh, Do you know?), Kuài qù ba! (Template:Zh, Go quickly!)
    6. Exclamations and interjections: À! Zhēn měi! (Template:Zh), Oh, it's so beautiful!)
    7. Onomatopoeia: mó dāo huòhuò (Template:Zh, honing a knife), hōnglōng yī shēng (Template:Zh, rumbling)
  10. Capitalization
    1. The first letter of the first word in a sentence is capitalized: Chūntiān lái le. (Template:Zh, Spring has arrived.)
    2. The first letter of each line in a poem is capitalized.
    3. The first letter of a proper noun is capitalized: Běijīng (Template:Zh, Beijing), Guójì Shūdiàn (Template:Zh, International Bookstore), Guójiā Yǔyán Wénzì Gōngzuò Wěiyuánhuì (Template:Zh, National Language Commission)
      1. On some occasions, proper nouns can be written in all caps: BĚIJĪNG, GUÓJÌ SHŪDIÀN, GUÓJIĀ YǓYÁN WÉNZÌ GŌNGZUÒ WĚIYUÁNHUÌ
    4. 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 (Template:Zh, Buddhism), Tángcháo (Template:Zh, Tang dynasty), jīngjù (Template:Zh, Beijing opera), chuānxiōng (Template:Zh, Szechuan lovage)
  11. Initialisms
    1. Single words are abbreviated by taking the first letter of each character of the word: Bjīng (Template:Zh, Beijing) → BJ
    2. A group of words are abbreviated by taking the first letter of each word in the group: guójiā biāozhǔn (Template:Zh, Guóbiāo standard) → GB
    3. Initials can also be indicated using full stops: BeǐjīngB.J., guójiā biāozhǔnG.B.
    4. 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 (Template:Zh) → Lǐ H. or LǏ H., Zhūgě Kǒngmíng (Template:Zh) → Zhūgě K. M. or ZHŪGĚ K. M.
  12. Line wrapping
    1. Words can only be split by the character:
      guāngmíng (Template:Zh, bright) → guāng-
      , not gu-
    2. Initials cannot be split:
      Wáng J. G. (Template:Zh) → Wáng
      J. G.
      , not Wáng J.-
    3. Apostrophes are removed in line wrapping:
      Xī'ān (Template:Zh, Xi'an) → Xī-
      , not Xī-
    4. When the original word has a hyphen, the hyphen is added at the beginning of the new line:
      chēshuǐ-mǎlóng (Template:Zh, heavy traffic: "carriage, water, horse, dragon") → chēshuǐ-
  13. Template:AnchorHyphenation: In addition to the situations mentioned above, there are four situations where hyphens are used.
    1. Coordinate and disjunctive compound words, where the two elements are conjoined or opposed, but retain their individual meaning: gōng-jiàn (Template:Zh, bow and arrow), kuài-màn (Template:Zh, speed: "fast-slow"), shíqī-bā suì (Template:Zh, 17–18 years old), dǎ-mà (Template:Zh, beat and scold), Yīng-Hàn (Template:Zh, English-Chinese [dictionary]), Jīng-Jīn (Template:Zh, Beijing-Tianjin), lù-hǎi-kōngjūn (Template:Zh, army-navy-airforce).
    2. Abbreviated compounds (Template:Zh): gōnggòng guānxì (Template:Zh, public relations) → gōng-guān (Template:Zh, PR), chángtú diànhuà (Template:Zh, long-distance calling) → cháng-huà (Template:Zh, LDC).
      Exceptions are made when the abbreviated term has become established as a word in its own right, as in chūzhōng (Template:Zh) for chūjí zhōngxué (Template:Zh, junior high school). Abbreviations of proper-name compounds, however, should always be hyphenated: Běijīng Dàxué (Template:Zh, Peking University) → Běi-Dà (Template:Zh, PKU).
    3. Four-syllable idioms: fēngpíng-làngjìng (Template:Zh), calm and tranquil: "wind calm, waves down"), huījīn-rútǔ (Template:Zh, spend money like water: "throw gold like dirt"), zhǐ-bǐ-mò-yàn (Template:Zh, paper-brush-ink-inkstone [four coordinate words]).[46]
      1. Other idioms are separated according to the words that make up the idiom: bēi hēiguō (Template:Zh, to be made a scapegoat: "to carry a black pot"), zhǐ xǔ zhōuguān fànghuǒ, bù xǔ bǎixìng diǎndēng (Template:Zh, 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")
  14. Punctuation
    1. The Chinese full stop (。) is changed to a western full stop (.)
    2. The hyphen is a half-width hyphen (-)
    3. Ellipsis can be changed from 6 dots (......) to 3 dots (...)
    4. The enumeration comma (、) is changed to a normal comma (,)
    5. All other punctuation marks are the same as the ones used in normal texts

Comparison with other orthographies[]

Pinyin is now used by foreign students learning Chinese as a second language, as well as Bopomofo.Template:Citation needed

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 problem is not limited only to pinyin, since many languages that use the Latin alphabet natively also 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."[47]

Because Pinyin is purely a representation of the sounds of Mandarin, it completely lacks the semantic cues and contexts inherent in Chinese characters. Pinyin is also unsuitable for transcribing some Chinese spoken languages other than Mandarin, languages which by contrast have traditionally been written with Han characters allowing for written communication which, by its unified semanto-phonetic orthography, could theoretically be readable in any of the various vernaculars of Chinese where a phonetic script would have only localized utility.Template:Citation needed

Comparison charts[]


Unicode code points[]

Based on ISO 7098:2015, Information and Documentation: Chinese Romanization (Template:Lang), tonal marks for pinyin should use the symbols from Combining Diacritical Marks, as opposed by the use of Spacing Modifier Letters in Bopomofo. Lowercase letters with tone marks are included in GB/T 2312 and their uppercase counterparts are included in JIS X 0212; thus Unicode includes all the common accented characters from pinyin.[48]

Due to The Basic Rules of the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet Orthography, all accented letters are required to have both uppercase and lowercase characters as per their normal counterparts.

Accented pinyin charactersTemplate:Ref labelTemplate:Ref label
Letter First tone Second tone Third tone Fourth tone
Combining Diacritical Marks ̄ (U+0304) ́ (U+0301) ̌ (U+030C) ̀ (U+0300)
Common letters
Uppercase A Ā (U+0100) Á (U+00C1) Ǎ (U+01CD) À (U+00C0)
E Ē (U+0112) É (U+00C9) Ě (U+011A) È (U+00C8)
I Ī (U+012A) Í (U+00CD) Ǐ (U+01CF) Ì (U+00CC)
O Ō (U+014C) Ó (U+00D3) Ǒ (U+01D1) Ò (U+00D2)
U Ū (U+016A) Ú (U+00DA) Ǔ (U+01D3) Ù (U+00D9)
Ü (U+00DC) Ǖ (U+01D5) Ǘ (U+01D7) Ǚ (U+01D9) Ǜ (U+01DB)
Lowercase a ā (U+0101) á (U+00E1) ǎ (U+01CE) à (U+00E0)
e ē (U+0113) é (U+00E9) ě (U+011B) è (U+00E8)
i ī (U+012B) í (U+00ED) ǐ (U+01D0) ì (U+00EC)
o ō (U+014D) ó (U+00F3) ǒ (U+01D2) ò (U+00F2)
u ū (U+016B) ú (U+00FA) ǔ (U+01D4) ù (U+00F9)
ü (U+00FC) ǖ (U+01D6) ǘ (U+01D8) ǚ (U+01DA) ǜ (U+01DC)
Rare letters
Uppercase Ê (U+00CA) Ê̄ (U+00CA U+0304) Ế (U+1EBE) Ê̌ (U+00CA U+030C) Ề (U+1EC0)
M M̄ (U+004D U+0304) Ḿ (U+1E3E) M̌ (U+004D U+030C) M̀ (U+004D U+0300)
N N̄ (U+004E U+0304) Ń (U+0143) Ň (U+0147) Ǹ (U+01F8)
Lowercase ê (U+00EA) ê̄ (U+00EA U+0304) ế (U+1EBF) ê̌ (U+00EA U+030C) ề (U+1EC1)
m m̄ (U+006D U+0304) ḿ (U+1E3F) m̌ (U+006D U+030C) m̀ (U+006D U+0300)
n n̄ (U+006E U+0304) ń (U+0144) ň (U+0148) ǹ (U+01F9)
1.Template:Note Yellow cells indicate that there are no single Unicode character for that letter; the character shown here uses Combining Diacritical Mark characters to display the letter.[48]
2.Template:Note Grey cells indicate that Xiandai Hanyu Cidian does not include pinyin with that specific letter.[48][49]

Template:Multiple image GBK has mapped two characters ‘ḿ’ and ‘ǹ’ to Private Use Areas in Unicode as U+E7C7 (Template:Lang) and U+E7C8 (Template:Lang) respectively,[50] thus some Simplified Chinese fonts (e.g. SimSun) that adheres to GBK include both characters in the Private Use Areas, and some input methods (e.g. Sogou Pinyin) also outputs the Private Use Areas code point instead of the original character. As the superset GB 18030 changed the mappings of ‘ḿ’ and ‘ǹ’,[49] this has caused issue where the input methods and font files use different encoding standard, and thus the input and output of both characters are mixed up.[48]

Shorthand pinyin letters[48]
Uppercase Lowercase Note ExampleTemplate:Ref label
Ĉ (U+0108) ĉ (U+0109) Abbreviation of ch 长/長 can be spelled as ĉáŋ
Ŝ (U+015C) ŝ (U+015D) Abbreviation of sh 伤/傷 can be spelled as ŝāŋ
Ẑ (U+1E90) ẑ (U+1E91) Abbreviation of zh 张/張 can be spelled as Ẑāŋ
Ŋ (U+014A) ŋ (U+014B) Abbreviation of ng 让/讓 can be spelled as ràŋ
1.Template:Note Example given is the abbreviated/shorthand version according to Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, it is inadvisable to use them for real life usage.

Other symbols that are used in pinyin is as follow:

Pinyin symbols
Symbol in Chinese Symbol in pinyin Usage Example
。(U+3002) . (U+002E) Marks end of sentence. 你好。 Nǐ hǎo.
,(U+FF0C)/、 (U+3001) , (U+002C) Marks connecting sentence. 你,好吗? Nǐ, hǎo ma?
—— (U+2014 U+2014) — (U+2014) Indicates breaking of meaning mid-sentence. 枢纽部分——中央大厅 shūniǔ bùfèn — zhōngyāng dàtīng
…… (U+2026 U+2026) … (U+2026) Used for omitting a word, phrase, line, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage. 我…… Wǒ…
· (U+00B7) Marks for the neutral tone, can be placed before the neutral-tone syllable. 吗 ·ma
- (U+002D) Hyphenation between abbreviated compounds. 公关 gōng-guān
' (U+0027) Indicates separate syllables. 西安 Xī'ān (compared to 先 xiān)

Other punctuation mark and symbols in Chinese are to use the equivalent symbol in English noted in to GB/T 15834.

File:Sample Chinese Pinyin fonts.png

Single storey a in four different Kai script fonts. Notice that accented pinyin letters are different in style and width with the regular letter.

In educational usage, to match the handwritten style, some fonts used a different style for the letter a and g to have an appearance of single-storey a and single-storey g. Fonts that follow GB/T 2312 usually make single-storey a in the accented pinyin characters but leaving unaccented double-storey a, causing a discrepancy in the font itself.[48] Unicode did not provide an official way to encode single-storey a and single-storey g, but as IPA require the differentiation of single-storey and double-storey a and g, thus the single-storey character ɑ/ɡ in IPA should be used if the need to separate single-storey a and g arises. For daily usage there is no need to differentiate single-storey and double-storey a/g.

Single-storey alphabet
Alphabet Single-storey representation Notes
a ɑ (U+0251) IPA /Template:IPA/
α (U+03B1) Greek alpha, not suggested
g ɡ (U+0261) IPA /Template:IPA/



A school slogan asking elementary students to speak Standard Chinese is annotated with pinyin, but without tonal marks.

Pinyin superseded older romanization systems such as Wade–Giles (1859; modified 1892) and postal 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 7098:2015). The United Nations followed suit in 1986.[2][51] It has also been accepted by the government of Singapore, the United States's Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and many other international institutions.[52]Template:Failed reference

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.[53][54]

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.[55]

Pinyin has become a tool for many foreigners to learn Mandarin pronunciation, and is used to explain both the grammar and spoken Mandarin coupled with Chinese characters (Template:Zh). 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, directly analogous to zhuyin) 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.

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 for using unaccented pinyin instead of 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 graphically by writing with a stylus, with concurrent online handwriting recognition.

Pinyin with accents can be entered with the use of special keyboard layouts or various character map utilities. X keyboard extension includes a "Hanyu Pinyin (altgr)" layout for AltGr-triggered dead key input of accented characters.[56]

Pinyin in Taiwan[]

Template:See also

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 decided to promote Hanyu Pinyin. Tongyong Pinyin ("common phonetic"), a romanization system developed in Taiwan, was designed to romanize languages and dialects spoken on the island in addition to Mandarin Chinese. The Kuomintang (KMT) 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 KMT 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. Locales in Kaohsiung, Tainan and other areas use romanizations derived from Tongyong Pinyin for some district and street names. A few localities with governments controlled by the KMT, most notably Taipei, Hsinchu, and Kinmen County, overrode the order and converted to Hanyu Pinyin before the January 1, 2009 national-level decision,[5][6] though with a slightly different capitalization convention than mainland China. Most areas of Taiwan adopted Tongyong Pinyin, consistent with the national policy. Today, many street signs in Taiwan are using Tongyong Pinyin-derived romanizations,[57][58] but some, especially in northern Taiwan, display Hanyu Pinyin-derived romanizations. It is not unusual to see spellings on street signs and buildings derived from the older Wade–Giles, MPS2 and other systems.

Attempts to make pinyin standard in Taiwan have had uneven success, with most place and proper names remaining unaffected, including all major cities. Personal names on Taiwanese passports honor the choices of Taiwanese citizens, who can choose Wade-Giles, Hakka, Hoklo, Tongyong, aboriginal, or pinyin.[59] Official pinyin use is controversial, as when pinyin use for a metro line in 2017 provoked protests, despite government responses that “The romanization used on road signs and at transportation stations is intended for foreigners... Every foreigner learning Mandarin learns Hanyu pinyin, because it is the international standard...The decision has nothing to do with the nation’s self-determination or any ideologies, because the key point is to ensure that foreigners can read signs.”[60]

Pinyin in Singapore[]

Template:See also

Singapore implemented Hanyu Pinyin as the official romanization system for Mandarin in the public sector starting in the 1980s, in conjunction with the Speak Mandarin Campaign.[61] Hanyu Pinyin is also used as the romanization system to teach Mandarin Chinese at schools.[62] While the process of Pinyinisation has been mostly successful in government communication, placenames, and businesses established in the 1980s and onward, it continues to be unpopular in some areas, most notably for personal names and vocabulary borrowed from other varieties of Chinese already established in the local vernacular.[61] In these situations, romanization continues to be based on the Chinese language variety it originated from, especially the three largest Chinese varieties traditionally spoken in Singapore (Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese).

Pinyin for other languages[]

Template:See also 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 Template:AnchorRegulation of Phonetic Transcription in Hanyu Pinyin Letters of Place Names in Minority Nationality Languages (Template:Zh) 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, plus ü and 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 Template:Lang Template:Lang Template:Transl
Urumchi Ürümqi Template:Lang Template:Lang Template:Transl
Lhasa Lhasa Template:Lang Template:Lang Template:Transl
Hohhot Hohhot Template:Lang Template:Lang Template:Transl
Golmud Golmud Template:Lang Template:Lang Template:Transl
Qiqihar Qiqihar Template:Lang Template:Lang Template:Transl

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[]

  • Combining character
  • Cyrillization of Chinese
  • Pinyin input method
  • Romanization of Japanese
  • Tibetan pinyin
  • Transcription into Chinese characters
  • Comparison of Chinese transcription systems




  1. The online version of the canonicalTemplate:Clarify Guoyu Cidian (Template:Zh) defines this term as: Template:Zh '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 this entry online.Template:Dead link Retrieved 14 September 2012.
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Further reading[]

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External links[]

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