Pinyin as Furigana

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Over at "Pinyin news," Mark Swofford has just made a very welcome post entitled "Spreading the good news." As a long-time, strong advocate of phonetically annotated character texts, it is indeed good news to note that great strides are being made in the automatic insertion of pinyin annotations in character files.  What is even more heartwarming is that, as Mark reports, the people who are most actively engaged in this work have an awareness of the necessity for word parsing, capitalization, correct use of apostrophes, and proper orthography for tense-marking particles.

Here's the second paragraph of Mark's post (note especially the last sentence!):

As I keep having to note, most of the things that are supposedly in Pinyin are terrible. This is not because Pinyin itself is inherently poor or difficult. It’s because most people who produce such things have a fundamental lack of understanding of Pinyin as a system. So it is with amazement that I report today on a journal that not only offers dozens of pages in Hanyu Pinyin — good Hanyu Pinyin — but does so twice every month. It’s also well worth noting that the journal is aimed primarily at adult native speakers of Mandarin, not foreigners trying to pick up the language, though certainly it could also be read by people in the latter group.

The whole post is worth reading, and it offers some examples of phonetically annotated passages using this new system and citations for where you can find many more such texts.


  1. Jacob said,

    March 28, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

    What term or phrase would be used to describe the aural furigana that is commonplace when speaking Chinese? That is, a speaker having to describe how a character is written in order to clear up the ambiguity resulting from homophones.

    For the uninitiated, here's an article that somewhat humourously describes the process and what it would be like if it happened in English.

  2. J40 said,

    March 30, 2011 @ 1:27 am

    I also got inspired by the Taiwanese "zhuyin-furigana" and created a Cantonese version using Yale.
    I used Word to add Cantonese Yale "pinyin" one by one and it takes me more than two hours. It is so painful!

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