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Chinese Pīnyīn and Zhùyīn Equivalent Sounds

Chinese Pīnyīn and Zhùyīn Equivalent Sounds

 

Chinese characters provide little indication towards how a Chinese word is pronounced in speech, as Chinese script is not a phonetic script. Two systems for transcribing Chinese Mandarin sounds on paper phonetically are pīnyīn and zhùyīn. Pīnyīn is a phonetic script for Chinese Mandarin that utilises characters from the globally speaking more instantly recognisable English alphabet, while zhùyīn characters are adopted from old variations of Chinese characters1. Once familiar with one of these systems, learning to read the other does not demand additional coaching on pronunciation, however it is interesting to note some minor discrepancies in correlation between these two means of phonetic transcription of Chinese Mandarin.

 

Here are 35 individual zhùyīn symbols listed beside their pīnyīn equivalents:

 

including initial sounds

 

b ㄅ          p ㄆ          m ㄇ          f ㄈ

d ㄉ          t ㄊ          n ㄋ          l ㄌ

g ㄍ          k ㄎ          h ㄏ

j ㄐ          q ㄑ          x ㄒ

zh ㄓ          ch ㄔ          sh ㄕ          r ㄖ

z ㄗ          c ㄘ          s ㄙ

 

vowel sounds

 

a ㄚ          o ㄛ          e ㄜ

i ㄧ

 

and final sounds

 

ai ㄞ          ei ㄟ

ao ㄠ          ou ㄡ

ie ㄝ          er ㄦ

an ㄢ          en ㄣ         

ang ㄤ

eng ㄥ

 

The initial sounds taught in pīnyīn of 'y' and 'w' are not listed above because in zhùyīn the exact same symbol is used for these sounds and the final sounds 'i (ㄧ)' and 'u (ㄨ)' respectively.

 

Moreover, here are the pīnyīn final sounds that require two zhùyīn symbols to articulate:

 

ui ㄨㄟ          iu ㄧㄡ          ie ㄧㄝ          üe ㄩㄝ          in ㄧㄣ          ing ㄧㄥ

 

Characters used in pīnyīn and zhùyīn do not directly equate to one another in all instances, and this discrepancy revolves around the zhùyīn sounds ㄨ and ㄩ, which are the additional two characters used in zhùyīn phonetic transcription on top of the 35 listed above.  Where pīnyīn writes 'ü', zhùyīn writes 'ㄩ'; however the pīnyīn final sound 'u', if preceded by a 'j', 'q' or 'x', would simultaneously be transcribed also as a 'ㄩ' in zhùyīn. If 'u' in pīnyīn is not preceded by one of these three initial sounds, it will be the equivalent of 'ㄨ' in zhùyīn. An 'o' in the middle of a sound rather than at the end, as written in pīnyīn, also equates to this same zhùyīn character 'ㄨ'. A special case also exists where zhùyīn transcribes the entire sound 'ㄩㄥ', while pīnyīn opts for 'yong', even though 'ㄩ'  in zhùyīn is not normally the equivalent of 'yo-' in pīnyīn. With all this in mind, the other possible components of sound in zhùyīn count as the following:

 

ㄨ          ㄩ        ㄨㄣ        ㄩㄣ          ㄨㄥ          ㄩㄥ

 

-by Chad Ryan; updated on the 29th of March, 2022

 

Reference:

1.  BYVoid (2009) The origins of zhùyīn symbols. Retrieved from: https://byvoid.com/zht/blog/pa-origin/

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