pinyin (and wadegile) request has gotten derailed

John Cowan cowan at
Tue Sep 16 15:05:27 CEST 2008

Randy Presuhn scripsit:

> >  1.  How different is the Tongyong Pinyin romanization (the alternate
> > Taiwanese romanization) of Mandarin from the Hanyu Pinyin romanization
> > of Mandarin?
> About as different as Pinyin and Wade-Gile.

Quantitatively, no.  Of the 412 Modern Standard Mandarin syllables
(disregarding tone), Hanyu Pinyin and Tongyong Pinyin differ in the
spelling of only 81 of them, whereas HYPY and Wade-Giles differ in the
spelling of 270 of them.  The only things that TYPY and WG have in common
are that they don't have the features, peculiar to HYPY, of separating
the alveolopalatals by writing different initials and of eliding central
vowels in certain triphthong rhymes.

> > 2.  And how different is Tibetan Pinyin from Hanyu Pinyin?
> It's like asking how different Spanish orthography is from Italian
> orthography,

The comparison is not at all a happy one: Spanish and Italian orthograpies
differ in all sorts of inessential ways.  If Italian were written with
ll and ñ rather than gl(i) and gn(i), and t(t)s rather than z(z),
and with non-penultimate stress marked with the acute, and half a dozen
other things, we could truly say that the languages shared, if not an
orthography, certainly a set of orthographic principles.  (Perhaps if
the kingdom of Naples had been conquered by the Spanish rather than the
Austrian Habsburgs? -- Naah.)

By contrast, Tibetan Pinyin is as like HYPY as the nature of Tibetan
will allow it to be.

> > I see no problem with having to use a meta-content description tag
> > to distinguish Tibetan from Hanyu pinyin until [cmn] and other codes
> > become available)

I don't see what 'cmn' has to do with it.  Tibetan is in no way part of 'zh'.

> The whole point of language tagging is distinguishing languages and
> their important variants.  To do things which would obscure the
> distinction between two indisputably distinct languages would be
> counterproductive.

The various Soviet Turkic languages are also indisputably distinct,
but we managed to assign a single tag to cover the Jangalif orthography
for all of them.

> > (Alas, since Tongyong Pinyin and Hanyu Pinyin are both for Mandarin,
> > ISO 639-3 codes will not help to distinguish these two if they need
> > to be distinguished with something other than a description in a
> > meta tag.  That's the only problem I can foresee with lumping the
> > two together for now.)
> This is a strong argument for *not* merging the two.

The obvious tactic is zh-(Latn)-TW-pinyin vs. zh-(Latn)-CN-pinyin.
Admittedly, zh-TW has been used to mean zh-Hant in the past, but this
is a truly appropriate use of TW for the orthography specific to Taiwan.

> > Reading online I understand that Cantonese Pinyin is quite distant
> > (correct me if I'm wrong) from Hanyu Pinyin --
> Yes.

I agree.  This should not be tagged with the wide-scope 'pinyin' subtag,
although I suppose it sometimes will be.

John Cowan   cowan at
You cannot enter here.  Go back to the abyss prepared for you!  Go back!
Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master.  Go! --Gandalf

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