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Chinese Pīnyīn and Zhùyīn Equivalent Sounds

Chinese Pīnyīn and Zhùyīn Equivalent Sounds

 

Chinese characters provide little indication toward 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 regarding the correlation of characters between these two means of transcribing Chinese Mandarin phonetically.

 

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

 

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

 

a ㄚ          o ㄛ          e ㄜ

i ㄧ

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 they are written using the same symbols used for the respective final sounds 'i (ㄧ)' and 'u (ㄨ)'.

 

Here are the final sounds that require two zhùyīn symbols to articulate and which have direct pīnyīn equivalents, written alongside these pīnyīn equivalents:

 

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 symbols ㄨ and ㄩ, which are the remaining two characters used in zhùyīn phonetic transcription.  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'. An exception to this rule is where pīnyīn combines 'y' and 'ong' to produce 'yong', whereas zhùyīn writes this entire sound as 'ㄩㄥ'. With this in mind, the other possible components of sound in zhùyīn count as:

 

ㄨ          ㄩ        ㄨㄣ        ㄩㄣ          ㄨㄥ          ㄩㄥ

 

-by Chad Ryan; updated on the 22nd of June, 2021

 

Reference:

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

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