Learning to Read Pinyin Romanization and its Equivalent in Wade-Giles
A Practical Course for Students of Chinese
The most important romanization system of Chinese until recent times was the Wade-Giles system. Pinyin is now the most important romanization system in modern usage and is the system used in international communications and in computer software. But Wade-Giles still retains an unparalleled place in the canon because a great deal of sinological work published before 1955 used it exclusively, and it continues to be used in areas of study such as Chinese philosophy. While Pinyin consonant letters maintain a one-to-one correspondence between a particular sound and a letter or sequence of two letters, there is a much more complicated correspondence between vowel letters and vowel sounds. Wade-Giles has a lesser degree of divergence between sound and letter, and in this respect is easier to operate.
The chief aim in this course is to teach competence in reading Pinyin romanization, and to foster an understanding of the principles underlying that romanization system. The student is introduced to some phonetics, although theoretical discussions are kept to a minimum. For those who wish, this course also teaches the ability to systematically convert each Pinyin representation into its Wade-Giles equivalent.
This course is directed at anyone who wishes to study Chinese fairly seriously for general or specialist purposes. It is meant to be used in conjunction with any current Chinese-language teaching book that uses Pinyin. No previous knowledge of phonetics is presupposed, and the course can be followed with or without a teacher. Parts of this course have been used since 1994 in draft form for beginners studying courses on Chinese language and culture at the University of Newcastle. This first published edition has been completed in the light of the author's experience in teaching those courses.
The lessons introduce difficulties of pronunciation and spelling gradually, beginning with Chinese sounds which are easily relatable to those of English (e.g., nasals), and progressing to those which may be outside the student's experience (e.g., retroflex fricatives).
Tone is introduced and taught by drawing on known analogies of pitch features in English intonation rather than taught as something entirely alien to the student's experience. Each lesson contains explanations, oral practice which enables the student to produce correct sounds, and practice in relating each sound to its Pinyin representation. A final lesson gives guidance on how to use Chinese-English Dictionaries.
Appendices on the organs of speech, on tables of vowels and consonants, and on developing a keyboard for Pinyin spelling complete with tones using macros in WordPerfect.
ISBN 9783895861994. LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 05. 96pp. 1998.