0

** This question is NOT for CSL students. The best way to learn a language is to directly follow a native speaker. A Chinese language teacher with the same native language background as the CSL student is excellent because the teacher can specifically explain the differences between the two languages.

IPA means the International Phonetic Alphabet. here

When discussing the history of Chinese Romanization here, including various schemes and various dialects, the best way is to use IPA. But what is the historical record of IPA that precisely describes the Chinese pronunciation?

The question can be more specific.

(1) When did scholars start to use IPA to denote Chinese pronunciation?

(2) How does the IPA record the pronunciation changes in the history of Chinese?

(3) How does the IPA record the pronunciation differences from one dialect to another?

(4) Who made the symbols? Person or organization?

(5) Are those symbols based on a specific Chinese romanization? Are those symbols used in other (Western or any) languages or specifically created for Chinese languages?

(6) Is the IPA scheme related to a specific Chinese romanization scheme?

(7) Is the IPA scheme based on a specific Chinese dialect?

(8) What are the advantages and disadvantages of using IPA?

The question is modified to make it more specific. This is a comment from a team member to suggest the modification. "I think the question here is a bit unclear. Are you asking for a record of how the standard language (Which standard? If not, then what kind of Chinese?) has developed over time in terms of pronunciation, written in IPA? This is what I read from your question, but your comment about Zhuyin here has nothing to do with that and indicates I've misunderstood your question. It seems you might be asking about how the transcription has changed?

Those questions may not be useful to a CSL student (Chinese as a Second Language) but would be useful for teachers.

7
  • 1
    I found this PPT that might answer most of your questions: linguistics.ucla.edu/people/keating/Keating_2018_PCCtalk.pdf - from my own observations it seems that Zhuyin was quite popular in the field of linguistics until the 50s and 60s where IPA appears to be more dominant.
    – Mou某
    Mar 4 at 12:25
  • 2
    I think the question here is a bit unclear. Are you asking for a record of how the standard language (Which standard? If not, then what kind of Chinese?) has developed over time in terms of pronunciation, written in IPA? This is what I read from your question, but your comment about Zhuyin here has nothing to do with that and indicates I've misunderstood your question. It seems you might be asking about how the transcription has changed?
    – Olle Linge
    Mar 5 at 16:17
  • 1
    I downvoted because the question is unclear. I think it should be rephrased; even with the comments the question is still perhaps too vague "what is the relationship between IPA and other schemes". Mar 6 at 8:51
  • 1
    I upvoted the question after I saw the edits, which address the issues that were raised. Mar 7 at 9:10
  • 1
    Yes, the edits make it clearer, but the problem now is that there are eight questions, not one. :)
    – Olle Linge
    Mar 7 at 19:28

1 Answer 1

1

Chinese ((lets say standard mandarin for specific reference, although concept of what I am about to say would apply to any of them)) has definitely had many many many different ways to romanize over the years.

Zhuyin, pinyin, wade-giles, or a system developed by a single author and never appearing outside their books, it all adds up fast ((not even mentioning different languages all have their own internal options for chinese romanization not shared with chinese or english etc.))

The beauty of IPA, for chinese or otherwise, is that it shows the exact sound, and documents the exact sounds in use for all languages in the world. The place this really shines is in comparison of different languages, different dialects, or different writing systems ((romanization systems here)).

For example wade giles and pinyin both have z, but the use and sounds involved are not at all the same. you also may see different letters used for the same sound, like chou vs zhou or yen vs yan. An IPA notation can immediately clear up which sounds are what.

To be devil's advocate, its not always just a matter of alternate letter choice to romanize with: if you are looking at older romanization systems, the chance some pronunciation//accents have changed since they were designed is high. If you wanted you could use IPA to notate those changes for comparison too. At an extreme even estimations of middle or old chinese languages could be notated on things like ancient poetry to show potential pronunciation-- combine with the romanization used for that and again you have a nice comparison forming that will help both with comprehension of the sounds and the romanization//writing system.

So, IPA really isn't much needed for only a single language//accent//resource to be looked at. But, as soon as you go into the realm of comparison it becomes extremely valuable, and its easy to see why its so popular-- from people looking to compare the sounds of a second language to their native one, all the way to people just wanting to compare subtleties like different romanization systems, its helpful (◐‿◑)


As for the history of the IPA aka International Phonetics Alphabet, it was created as a concept in the late 19th century and has been continuously updated and expanded all the way into the current 21st century. Originally it was just used scholarly among linguists, but the usefulness of a universal pronunciation guide has cause it to gain a lot of traction among regular people. Theoretically if you knew all the IPA sounds and symbols, you could speak the pronunciation of any words in the world, regardless of actually knowing that specific language. Although thats not its intended use, as mentioned its meant to be a comparison and reference tool at its core.

2
  • (◐‿◑), how did you do this? :-)
    – PdotWang
    Mar 6 at 21:56
  • @PdotWang my chinese keyboard has it built in on my phone, one the numeral tab there is a button with a little ^_^ face that has many similar emojis
    – zagrycha
    Mar 7 at 0:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.