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Sep 30, 2008

China Times carries a kernel of truth

Today China Times has a very truthful headline: when Pinyin meets politics, a consensus is difficult to achieve. But they close the piece with sheer nonsense.

In reality, [Tongyong Pinyin and Hanyu Pinyin] both have their strengths. For example, when Tongyong was being developed, a main difference was to not use "x" and "q" as Hanyu Pinyin did because the pronunciation did not correspond with English reading habits and was not convenient for foreigners to read. On the other hand, Tongyong spells the pronunciation of 「ㄓ」as "jh," but English doesn't have this cluster and the choice made it difficult for foreigners to pronounce, unlike the Hanyu Pinyin "zh." Which spelling system is best? It will be difficult to come to consensus in the short term.

事實上,兩種拼音方式各有優劣, 例如當初設計通用拼音,主要是去除漢語拼音中,不符合英文讀寫習慣的「x」和「q」的發音,便於外籍人士閱讀。但相對,漢語拼音中「ㄓ」的發言拼寫為 「jh」,在英文中沒有這種拼法,也導致外籍人士發音困難,不像漢語拼音將「ㄓ」拼寫為韋氏音標已有的「zh」。兩種拼音方式孰優孰劣?短期內恐怕難有共 識。

Fact: neither "zh" nor "jh" consonant clusters exist in English. Neither does the basic sound [ʈʂ], a retroflexive affricate, occur in English. The closest we get are the post-aveolar affricates [tʃ] and [dʒ], generally represented with either "ch" or "j".

Now it may make sense to create your own new consonant cluster to represent a unique sound (from and English speaker's perspective), but let us not pretend that somehow "Zh" is easier to read than "Jh" for the uninitiated.

1 comment:

D. Corey Sanderson said...

personally...I've always thought "jh" was a stronger match than "zh", but that is just me (and bias aside).