2

So it seems that there is no way to map the Pinyin version of the pronunciation of Chinese words into Chinese characters directly:

If Pinyin (or Other Romanization) can be Translated Back into Chinese Characters

What must be done is, in addition to spelling out the sound of the word in Pinyin, you must select the appropriate character out of a list of characters that match that sound/spelling.

What I'm wondering is, the max number of items that would appear in that list (roughly). For example, say that there are 10 words/characters that are all called . Then there are just 10 characters in the list you'd have to select from when typing that in. Maybe there is only 1 matching character, I'm not sure.

Wondering what the rough estimate or scale is of how many character sets map to a single pronunciation. If it's like 5 or 10 max, or 100 or 1000 in some cases. That would be interesting to know.

6

The Phonology of Standard Chinese by San Duanmu (端木三) has a list of the 15 most common syllables, followed by the number of different characters pronounced that way, not including tones.

yi (106),ji (93), yu (90), fu (73), zhi (72), li (71), qi (66), yuan (64), xi (64), jian (61), shi (58), wu (55), wei (53), ju (51), pi (51)

Tones distribution should be roughly even for the most part although the book does say that yi4 represents 63 different words.

  • 1
    "Tones distribution should be roughly even for the most part": actually, I expect it not to be even, for the most part. I haven't checked but I could do that at some point. – goPlayerJuggler Sep 26 '18 at 7:41
  • Yeah, I'm making too many assumptions about the tones. I'll edit that part. – Evene Sep 26 '18 at 7:52
3

There's no set limit. Some pinyin can be used for dozens of character; some only map to a few.

For example:

/yu4/ map to the following characters:

雨, 育, 玉, 譽, 遇, 羽, 預, 寓, 熨, 獄, 鬱, 諭, 與, 裕, 喻, 域, 愈, 慾, 欲, 浴, 澳. 禦, 籲, 芋, 蔚, 豫, 郁, 鬻, 御, 喐, 峪, 鈺, 逳, 癒, 聿, 鷸

while /ben3 / only map to : 本, 苯 and 捹

  • Wondering if you know of any example with more than 100. Also wondering what you mean exactly by "no limit set". This is because new words can be invented I'm guessing, with the same pronunciation as old words. – Lance Pollard Sep 24 '18 at 8:28
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    @Lance Pollard It is highly unlikely that any pinyin can map to more than couple dozens of characters. Also, Mandarin has 4 tones, change /ben3/ to /ben1/ and it map to two other different characters 錛 and 奔, and 錛 is such a rare character, the only useful character that map to /ben1/ is 奔. tone change reduce the number of pinyin and character match. (many characters also have more than one pinyin) – Tang Ho Sep 24 '18 at 8:33

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