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Is there such thing as Chinese spelling alphabet, like the NATO phonetic alphabet, or the Japanese radiotelephony alphabet?

When I am to spell alphabets via a phone, I use appropriate spelling alphabets, depending on the language or the script. For example, I once spelled "CMTH" as "C as in Charlie, M as in Mike, T as in Tango, H as in Hotel." I actually memorized English, German, Russian, Korean, and Japanese spelling alphabets. But I haven't found such thing as Chinese spelling alphabet anywhere on Internet.

I imagine such spelling alphabet is assigned to each of Bopomofo, and it's hard to believe such thing doesn't exist because military officers should have them anyway. So:

  • Is there such thing as Chinese spelling alphabet?

  • If so, do China and Taiwan have different spelling alphabets? Or is there different spelling alphabets for different dialects of Chinese?

  • "military officers should have them anyway" why do you think Latin alphabet is used in Chinese military? – fefe Oct 16 '20 at 5:02
  • @fefe You misunderstood. Chinese spelling alphabet would be in Pinyin or Bopomofo. – Dannyu NDos Oct 16 '20 at 7:08
  • Partial pinyin or bopomof (such as intials or finals) will not be used. The minimal unit would be a syllable. The pronunciation of the syllable itself would serve as its "name", or alphabet. – fefe Oct 16 '20 at 7:18
  • @fefe I bet if that were the case, radiomen would have trouble distinguishing b(ㄅ) and d(ㄉ). – Dannyu NDos Oct 16 '20 at 7:20
  • Not in sentence, as there is context. – fefe Oct 16 '20 at 7:25
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The idea of a "spelling alphabet" of course assumes the concepts of "spelling" and "alphabet", which does not apply to Chinese characters.

That is not to say that radiotelephony procedure is unimportant. The need for a standard English in international aviation is so important that there is much research in China into teaching ICAO English standards, and their standards are to be adhered to in aviation environments.

Instead of spelling words, Chinese speakers in general explain the characters in terms of other words, a kind of 解说. Chinese speakers do quite a lot of this when encountering names, much like many English speakers ask the spelling of the name (or have various shortcuts). These are very far from standard in the way that NATO or ICAO are, and there are plenty of ad hoc cultural variants; but generally they use high-frequency disyllabic words. If the character is rare enough not to have such words, then other ad hoc explanations are required.

One must then go back to the reason for a spelling alphabet in alphabet- and syllabary-using language systems: when the technology of audio transfer causes the risk of information loss to be large enough to impede communication. It is a form of disambiguation.

This was true in late 1890s Britain, which resulted in the 1904 British Army Regulations, is still true in aviation contexts, and is also true of the Sinosphere. But since the information being lost is encoded slightly differently in the written script, the actions developed to compensate are different.

The disambiguation aspect is particularly obvious with numbers in Mandarin Chinese. The exact same vowel and tone shared by the numbers 1 and 7 mean that they are very easily confused over a poor line, so much so that in civilian conversation when enunciating numbers, 幺 is the usual substitution for 一 when reading phone numbers and other long strings of numbers (as well as other specific examples). The Chinese Wikipedia gives a few more examples of the numbers substituted in technical contexts.

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Instead of spelling words, Chinese speakers in general explain the characters in terms of other words, a kind of 解说. Chinese speakers do quite a lot of this when encountering names, much like many English speakers ask the spelling of the name (or have various shortcuts)

Let me give you an example.

A: Thanks for choosing our company. May I have your name?
B: My name is Yīmíng Xǔkù’ěr. (依明·许许尔 | شۈكۈر ئىمىن | Emin Shükür)

A: Which characters are them? — 这都是哪些字?or 这些字都怎么写?
B: Yī (依): dānrénpáng (亻) on the left and (衣) in yīfu (衣服) on the right. — “依”字的左边是单人旁,右边是“衣服”的“衣”。
Míng (明): is in guāngmíng (光明).
Then there is a jiàngéhào (·).
Xǔ (许): is in yǔnxǔ (允许).
Kù (库): guǎngzìtóu (广) and chē (车) in qìchē (汽车). — “库”字是广字头和“汽车”的“车”。
Ěr (尔): is in ěryúwǒzhà (尔虞我诈).

A: May I have your email address?
B: My email address is emin_s01@ope-tel.com.
E-M-I-N 下划线 (underscore) S 零幺 (01) at (@)
O-P-E 横杠/减号 (dash/minus) T-E-L 点 (dot) C-O-M。
A: O-P-E or (还是) O-B-E?
B: O-P-E. P is pō in pīnyīn. — P 是拼音的 pō。

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