Michael Everson everson at
Thu Sep 25 13:32:47 CEST 2008

On 25 Sep 2008, at 11:40, Tracey, Niall wrote:

> To us the differences seem minor as all pinyins fall far outside of  
> our "western" frames of reference.

Not at all. Not to me anyway. Nor to John, evidently.

> But the more familiar something is to the observer, the more the  
> differences are exaggerated. Conversely, the difference is massively  
> de-emphasised when both are unfamiliar. Remember that many white  
> people can't tell the difference between (for example) Chinese, Thai  
> and Japanese people despite a massive difference in phenotype.
> What you perceive as a logical generalisation, the native speakers  
> may see as a racist generalisation.

OK, this is over the top.

The fact is that "Pinyin" refers to a particular use of the Latin  
alphabet (just as "fonupa" does) whose properties (in particular its  
definition of j, c, q, and x for instance) make it quite unique as  
regards other orthographies. In addition to Mandarin, the Chinese  
themselves apply this alphabet to other Chinese languages as well as  
other languages of China.

That is why Pinyin is an umbrella term for these orthographies.

Michael Everson *

More information about the Ietf-languages mailing list