Jones Romanization: Mandarin Chinese

This may seem strange since I don't speak much Chinese, I have no Chinese ancestry, and I've never been to China, but I've been nursing an obsession with Mandarin phonology for several years now, since before I even got into linguistics. It's not like I have a lot of time to kill. Aside from my family life, I'm currently working on my Master's thesis, managing a language acquisition research lab, and preparing to teach my first ESOL course next semester. But I still can't help working on stuff like this, if only to blow off some steam, and I figure it's about time I show my work.

Before I can get on with the Romanization scheme, you'll need a quick overview of Mandarin phonology. To start with, here is a table of all the speech sounds that occur in Standard Mandarin (more or less). Note that /c/ is not purely "palatal" but also involves friction at the gumline. Where two palatal sounds are listed in the same cell below, the second is rounded.

labialalveolarretroflexpalatalvelarglottal
stopsptk
nasalsmnN
fricativesfsScHh
voiced fricativeZ
laterall
glideswry, Y
close vowelsuRi, üï
close lax vowelsUI
mid vowelsoeë
mid lax vowelsOE, ÖË
open vowelsaA

That's a fairly thorough representation of the sounds that come out when someone speaks Mandarin Chinese, but that's not what has to be memorized. Here's a much smaller table of the phonemes of Mandarin in my analysis. Of course, this isn't the only way to analyze the sound system, but it seems pretty concise and explanatory to me.

lipsgumsback
weak stopsbdg
strong stopsptk
nasalsmnN
fricativesfsh
laterall
glideswry
close vowel*
mid vowel@
open vowela

The symbols in the preceding table can be strung together to form all the syllables of the language. The pronunciation of these syllables (represented as sequences of sounds from the first table) can be predicted from this phonemic form, which is hypothesized to exist in the mind of any given speaker of Mandarin.

In fact, this table could be reduced even further. For example, /m/ only occurs at the start of a syllable, and /N/ occurs only at the end, so they might be be represented as a single phoneme, say /M/, if syllable divisions are included in the underlying phonemic representation. Also, the aspiration that accompanies what I've called "strong stops" might really be a combination of a stop plus /h/. Rather than keep reducing until I reach a truly minimal inventory of phonemes, I've settled on these 19 for the sake of convenience.

Just to give a quick picture of my Romanization scheme and show how it compares the Hanyu Pinyin, I've split the syllables into "onsets" and "rhymes". This is pretty standard, but it's not perfect. For most of the rhymes, two forms have to be listed: the first stands alone as a complete syllable, and the second combines with an onset.

Onset FormPronunciationHanyuJones
/b/[p]b
/d/[t]d
/ds/[ts]zds
/dr/[tS]zhdr
/g/[k]g
/gy/[tc]jdy
/p/[ph]p
/t/[th]t
/ts/[tsh]cts
/tr/[tSh]chtr
/k/[kh]k
/ky/[tch]qty
/m/[m]m
/n/[n]n
/f/[f]f
/s/[s]s
/sr/[S]shsr
/h/[H]h
/hy/[c]xsy
/r/[Z]r
/l/[l]l
Rhyme FormPronunciationHanyuJones
/w*/[wu]wu, ~u
/w@/[wO]wo, ~uo, ~owo, ~uo
/w@n/[wËn]wen, ~unwon, ~un
/w@N/[wËN, UN]weng, ~ongwong, ~ung
/w@y/[wey]wei, ~uiwei, ~uei
/wa/[wa]wa, ~ua
/wan/[wan]wan, ~uan
/waN/[wAN]wang, ~uang
/way/[way]wai, ~uai
/y*/[yi]yi, ~i
/y@/[yE]ye, ~ie
/y@n/[yin]yin, ~in
/y@N/[yIN]ying, ~ing
/y@w/[yëw]you, ~iuyou, ~iou
/ya/[ya]ya, ~ia
/yan/[yEn]yan, ~ian
/yaN/[yAN]yang, ~iang
/yaw/[yAw]yao, ~iaoyau, ~iau
/yw*/[Yü]yu, ~üyu, ~iu
/yw@/[YÖ]yue, ~üeyue, ~iue
/yw@n/[Yün]yun, ~ünyun, ~iun
/yw@N/[YUN]yong, ~iongyung, ~iung
/ywan/[YEn]yuan, ~üanyuan, ~iuan
/*/[ï, R]ie
/@/[ë]eo
/@n/[Ën]enon
/@N/[ëN]engong
/@w/[ëw]ou
/@y/[ey]ei
/a/[a]a
/an/[an]an
/aN/[AN]ang
/aw/[Aw]aoau
/ay/[ay]ai
/ar/[Ar]erar

You may also have noticed that /y/ is listed at the end of some onsets and at the beginning of some rhymes. This really represents a single sound in the syllable. Rather than spell this sound twice, just remember that in the Jones system the sequence "yi" is actually rendered "y" in the middle of a syllable. Hanyu Pinyin is a little weird in this respect. It keeps the "i" after "j", "q", and "x", but it renders "ü" as "u" in this position. (This means that the syllable spelled "quan" in Hanyu is actually pronounced much closer to the Jones spelling "tyuan", something like "chew-ann" or "chwenn".)

Another point of contention between the two systems is the treatment of the schwa-like phonemes that I've designated /*/ and /@/ when they occur alone in a rhyme. Hanyu Pinyin spells these sounds as "i" and "e", but the Jones system uses "e" and "o" respectively. The pronunciation of these vowels, especially /*/, is heavily dependent on the surrounding consonants, so /s*/ sounds like [], /r*/ sounds like [rR], /y*/ sounds like [yi], and so on. Since Hanyu Pinyin doesn't really make use of "o" as a rhyme, it's free to shorten existing rhymes down in certain syllables. Following any labial consonant, /w@/ is rendered simply "o".

There's one more syllable that doesn't really fit with the rest of Mandarin phonology. It's spelled "lo" in Hanyu, and its pronunciation is something like [lo]. This is pretty rare, and I think it may be an allomorph of /l@w/. It seems to only occur in the stressless "neutral" tone. I'd really like to spell this syllable as "lou" in the Jones system, but until I'm sure these sounds really are in complementary distribution, I'll go with "loh". (If you have any information to add on this, please leave a comment!)

The following very large table lists all the basic syllables of Mandarin first in the Zhuyin system of representing Chinese sounds (AKA "Bopomofo"), then in a few of the most prominent Romanization schemes to date, and finally in my own original scheme, which I of course feel is the best.

ZhuyinWade-GilesYaleHanyuJones
ㄅㄚpabababa
ㄅㄛpobwobobuo
ㄅㄞpaibaibaibai
ㄅㄟpeibeibeibei
ㄅㄠpaobaubaobau
ㄅㄢpanbanbanban
ㄅㄣpenbenbenbon
ㄅㄤpangbangbangbang
ㄅㄥpengbengbengbong
ㄅㄧpibibibi
ㄅㄧㄝpiehbyebiebie
ㄅㄧㄠpiaobyaubiaobiau
ㄅㄧㄢpienbyanbianbian
ㄅㄧㄣpinbinbinbin
ㄅㄧㄥpingbingbingbing
ㄅㄨpubububu
ㄆㄚp`apapapa
ㄆㄛp`opwopopuo
ㄆㄞp`aipaipaipai
ㄆㄟp`eipeipeipei
ㄆㄠp`aopaupaopau
ㄆㄡp`oupoupoupou
ㄆㄢp`anpanpanpan
ㄆㄣp`enpenpenpon
ㄆㄤp`angpangpangpang
ㄆㄥp`engpengpengpong
ㄆㄧp`ipipipi
ㄆㄧㄝp`iehpyepiepie
ㄆㄧㄠp`iaopyaupiaopiau
ㄆㄧㄢp`ienpyanpianpian
ㄆㄧㄣp`inpinpinpin
ㄆㄧㄥp`ingpingpingping
ㄆㄨp`upupupu
ㄇㄚmamamama
ㄇㄛmomwomomuo
ㄇㄜmemememo
ㄇㄞmaimaimaimai
ㄇㄟmeimeimeimei
ㄇㄠmaomaumaomau
ㄇㄡmoumoumoumou
ㄇㄢmanmanmanman
ㄇㄣmenmenmenmon
ㄇㄤmangmangmangmang
ㄇㄥmengmengmengmong
ㄇㄧmimimimi
ㄇㄧㄝmiehmyemiemie
ㄇㄧㄠmiaomyaumiaomiau
ㄇㄧㄡmiumyoumiumiou
ㄇㄧㄢmienmyanmianmian
ㄇㄧㄣminminminmin
ㄇㄧㄥmingmingmingming
ㄇㄨmumumumu
ㄈㄚfafafafa
ㄈㄛfofwofofuo
ㄈㄟfeifeifeifei
ㄈㄡfoufoufoufou
ㄈㄢfanfanfanfan
ㄈㄣfenfenfenfon
ㄈㄤfangfangfangfang
ㄈㄥfengfengfengfong
ㄈㄨfufufufu
ㄉㄚtadadada
ㄉㄜtedededo
ㄉㄞtaidaidaidai
ㄉㄟteideideidei
ㄉㄠtaodaudaodau
ㄉㄡtoudoudoudou
ㄉㄢtandandandan
ㄉㄣtendendendon
ㄉㄤtangdangdangdang
ㄉㄥtengdengdengdong
ㄉㄧtidididi
ㄉㄧㄝtiehdyediedie
ㄉㄧㄠtiaodyaudiaodiau
ㄉㄧㄡtiudyoudiudiou
ㄉㄧㄢtiendyandiandian
ㄉㄧㄤtiangdyangdiangdiang
ㄉㄧㄥtingdingdingding
ㄉㄨtudududu
ㄉㄨㄛtodwoduoduo
ㄉㄨㄟtuidweiduiduei
ㄉㄨㄢtuandwanduanduan
ㄉㄨㄣtundwendundun
ㄉㄨㄥtungdungdongdung
ㄊㄚt`atatata
ㄊㄜt`eteteto
ㄊㄞt`aitaitaitai
ㄊㄠt`aotautaotau
ㄊㄡt`outoutoutou
ㄊㄢt`antantantan
ㄊㄤt`angtangtangtang
ㄊㄥt`engtengtengtong
ㄊㄧt`itititi
ㄊㄧㄝt`iehtyetietie
ㄊㄧㄠt`iaotyautiaotiau
ㄊㄧㄢt`ientyantiantian
ㄊㄧㄥt`ingtingtingting
ㄊㄨt`utututu
ㄊㄨㄛt`otwotuotuo
ㄊㄨㄟt`uitweituituei
ㄊㄨㄢt`uantwantuantuan
ㄊㄨㄣt`untwentuntun
ㄊㄨㄥt`ungtungtongtung
ㄋㄚnananana
ㄋㄜneneneno
ㄋㄞnainainainai
ㄋㄟneineineinei
ㄋㄠnaonaunaonau
ㄋㄡnounounounou
ㄋㄢnannannannan
ㄋㄣnennennennon
ㄋㄤnangnangnangnang
ㄋㄥnengnengnengnong
ㄋㄧnininini
ㄋㄧㄚnianyaniania
ㄋㄧㄝniehnyenienie
ㄋㄧㄠniaonyauniaoniau
ㄋㄧㄡniunyouniuniou
ㄋㄧㄢniennyanniannian
ㄋㄧㄣninninninnin
ㄋㄧㄤniangnyangniangniang
ㄋㄧㄥningningningning
ㄋㄨnunununu
ㄋㄨㄛnonwonuonuo
ㄋㄨㄢnuannwannuannuan
ㄋㄨㄣnunnwennunnun
ㄋㄨㄥnungnungnongnung
ㄋㄩnyuniu
ㄋㄩㄝnüehnywenüeniue
ㄌㄚlalalala
ㄌㄛlolololoh
ㄌㄜlelelelo
ㄌㄞlailailailai
ㄌㄟleileileilei
ㄌㄠlaolaulaolau
ㄌㄡloulouloulou
ㄌㄢlanlanlanlan
ㄌㄤlanglanglanglang
ㄌㄥlenglenglenglong
ㄌㄧlililili
ㄌㄧㄚlialyalialia
ㄌㄧㄝliehlyelielie
ㄌㄧㄠliaolyauliaoliau
ㄌㄧㄡliulyouliuliou
ㄌㄧㄢlienlyanlianlian
ㄌㄧㄣlinlinlinlin
ㄌㄧㄤlianglyangliangliang
ㄌㄧㄥlinglinglingling
ㄌㄨlulululu
ㄌㄨㄛlolwoluoluo
ㄌㄨㄢluanlwanluanluan
ㄌㄨㄣlunlwunlunlun
ㄌㄨㄥlunglunglonglung
ㄌㄩlyuliu
ㄌㄩㄝlüehlywelüeliue
ㄌㄩㄣlünlyunlünliun
ㄍㄚkagagaga
ㄍㄜkogegego
ㄍㄞkaigaigaigai
ㄍㄟkeigeigeigei
ㄍㄠkaogaugaogau
ㄍㄡkougougougou
ㄍㄢkangangangan
ㄍㄣkengengengon
ㄍㄤkanggangganggang
ㄍㄥkenggenggenggong
ㄍㄨkugugugu
ㄍㄨㄚkuagwaguagua
ㄍㄨㄛkuogwoguoguo
ㄍㄨㄞkuaigwaiguaiguai
ㄍㄨㄟkueigweiguiguei
ㄍㄨㄢkuangwanguanguan
ㄍㄨㄣkungwungungun
ㄍㄨㄤkuanggwangguangguang
ㄍㄨㄥkunggunggonggung
ㄎㄚk`akakaka
ㄎㄜk`okekeko
ㄎㄞk`aikaikaikai
ㄎㄠk`aokaukaokau
ㄎㄡk`oukoukoukou
ㄎㄢk`ankankankan
ㄎㄣk`enkenkenkon
ㄎㄤk`angkangkangkang
ㄎㄥk`engkengkengkong
ㄎㄨk`ukukuku
ㄎㄨㄚk`uakwakuakua
ㄎㄨㄛk`uokwokuokuo
ㄎㄨㄞk`uaikwaikuaikuai
ㄎㄨㄟk`ueikweikuikuei
ㄎㄨㄢk`uankwankuankuan
ㄎㄨㄣk`unkwenkunkun
ㄎㄨㄤk`uangkwangkuangkuang
ㄎㄨㄥk`ungkungkongkung
ㄏㄚhahahaha
ㄏㄜhoheheho
ㄏㄞhaihaihaihai
ㄏㄟheiheiheihei
ㄏㄠhaohauhaohau
ㄏㄡhouhouhouhou
ㄏㄢhanhanhanhan
ㄏㄣhenhenhenhon
ㄏㄤhanghanghanghang
ㄏㄥhenghenghenghong
ㄏㄨhuhuhuhu
ㄏㄨㄚhuahwahuahua
ㄏㄨㄛhuohwohuohuo
ㄏㄨㄞhuaihwaihuaihuai
ㄏㄨㄟhuihweihuihuei
ㄏㄨㄢhuanhwanhuanhuan
ㄏㄨㄣhunhwenhunhun
ㄏㄨㄤhuanghwanghuanghuang
ㄏㄨㄥhunghunghonghung
ㄐㄧchijijidyi
ㄐㄧㄚchiajyajiadya
ㄐㄧㄝchiehjyejiedye
ㄐㄧㄠchiaojyaujiaodyau
ㄐㄧㄡchiujyoujiudyou
ㄐㄧㄢchienjyanjiandyan
ㄐㄧㄣchinjinjindyin
ㄐㄧㄤchiangjyangjiangdyang
ㄐㄧㄥchingjingjingdying
ㄐㄩchüjyujudyu
ㄐㄩㄝchüehjywejuedyue
ㄐㄩㄢchüanjywanjuandyuan
ㄐㄩㄣchünjyunjundyun
ㄐㄩㄥchiungjyungjiongdyung
ㄑㄧch`ichiqityi
ㄑㄧㄚch`iachyaqiatya
ㄑㄧㄝch`iehchyeqietye
ㄑㄧㄠch`iaochyauqiaotyau
ㄑㄧㄡch`iuchyouqiutyou
ㄑㄧㄢch`ienchyanqiantyan
ㄑㄧㄣch`inchinqintyin
ㄑㄧㄤch`iangchyangqiangtyang
ㄑㄧㄥch`ingchingqingtying
ㄑㄩch`üchyuqutyu
ㄑㄩㄝch`üehchywequetyue
ㄑㄩㄢch`üanchywanquantyuan
ㄑㄩㄣch`ünchyunquntyun
ㄑㄩㄥch`iungchyungqiongtyung
ㄒㄧhsisyixisyi
ㄒㄧㄚhsiasyaxiasya
ㄒㄧㄝhsiehsyexiesye
ㄒㄧㄠhsiaosyauxiaosyau
ㄒㄧㄡhsiusyouxiusyou
ㄒㄧㄢhsiensyanxiansyan
ㄒㄧㄣhsinsyinxinsyin
ㄒㄧㄤhsiangsyangxiangsyang
ㄒㄧㄥhsingsyingxingsying
ㄒㄩhsüsyuxusyu
ㄒㄩㄝhsüehsywexuesyue
ㄒㄩㄢhsüansywanxuansyuan
ㄒㄩㄣhsünsyunxunsyun
ㄒㄩㄥhsiungsyungxiongsyung
chihjrzhidre
ㄓㄚchajazhadra
ㄓㄜchejezhedro
ㄓㄞchaijaizhaidrai
ㄓㄟcheijeizheidrei
ㄓㄠchaojauzhaodrau
ㄓㄡchoujouzhoudrou
ㄓㄢchanjanzhandran
ㄓㄣchenjenzhendron
ㄓㄤchangjangzhangdrang
ㄓㄥchengjengzhengdrong
ㄓㄨchujuzhudru
ㄓㄨㄚchuajwazhuadrua
ㄓㄨㄛchojwozhuodruo
ㄓㄨㄞchuaijwaizhuaidruai
ㄓㄨㄟchuijweizhuidruei
ㄓㄨㄢchuanjwanzhuandruan
ㄓㄨㄣchunjwenzhundrun
ㄓㄨㄤchuangjwangzhuangdruang
ㄓㄨㄥchungjungzhongdrung
ch`ihchrchitre
ㄔㄚch`achachatra
ㄔㄜch`echechetro
ㄔㄞch`aichaichaitrai
ㄔㄠch`aochauchaotrau
ㄔㄡch`ouchouchoutrou
ㄔㄢch`anchanchantran
ㄔㄣch`enchenchentron
ㄔㄤch`angchangchangtrang
ㄔㄥch`engchengchengtrong
ㄔㄨch`uchuchutru
ㄔㄨㄚch`uachwachuatrua
ㄔㄨㄛch`ochwochuotruo
ㄔㄨㄞch`uaichwaichuaitruai
ㄔㄨㄟch`uichweichuitruei
ㄔㄨㄢch`uanchwanchuantruan
ㄔㄨㄣch`unchwenchuntrun
ㄔㄨㄤch`uangchwangchuangtruang
ㄔㄨㄥch`ungchungchongtrung
shihshrshisre
ㄕㄚshashashasra
ㄕㄜshesheshesro
ㄕㄞshaishaishaisrai
ㄕㄟsheisheisheisrei
ㄕㄠshaoshaushaosrau
ㄕㄡshoushoushousrou
ㄕㄢshanshanshansran
ㄕㄣshenshenshensron
ㄕㄤshangshangshangsrang
ㄕㄥshengshengshengsrong
ㄕㄨshushushusru
ㄕㄨㄚshuashwashuasrua
ㄕㄨㄛshuoshwoshuosruo
ㄕㄨㄞshuaishwaishuaisruai
ㄕㄨㄟshuishweishuisruei
ㄕㄨㄢshuanshwanshuansruan
ㄕㄨㄣshunshwunshunsrun
ㄕㄨㄤshuangshwangshuangsruang
ㄕㄨㄥshungshungshongsrung
jihrrire
ㄖㄜjererero
ㄖㄠjaorauraorau
ㄖㄡjourourourou
ㄖㄢjanranranran
ㄖㄣjenrenrenron
ㄖㄤjangrangrangrang
ㄖㄥjengrengrengrong
ㄖㄨjurururu
ㄖㄨㄛjorworuoruo
ㄖㄨㄟjuirweiruiruei
ㄖㄨㄢjuanrwanruanruan
ㄖㄨㄣjunrwunrunrun
ㄖㄨㄥjungrungrongrung
tzudzzidse
ㄗㄚtsadzazadsa
ㄗㄜtsedzezedso
ㄗㄞtsaidzaizaidsai
ㄗㄟtseidzeizeidsei
ㄗㄠtsaodzauzaodsau
ㄗㄡtsoudzouzoudsou
ㄗㄢtsandzanzandsan
ㄗㄣtsendzenzendson
ㄗㄤtsangdzangzangdsang
ㄗㄥtsengdzengzengdsong
ㄗㄨtsudzuzudsu
ㄗㄨㄛtsodzwozuodsuo
ㄗㄨㄟtsuidzweizuidsuei
ㄗㄨㄢtsuandzwanzuandsuan
ㄗㄨㄣtsundzwenzundsun
ㄗㄨㄥtsungdzungzongdsung
tz`utszcitse
ㄘㄚts`atsacatsa
ㄘㄜts`etsecetso
ㄘㄞts`aitsaicaitsai
ㄘㄠts`aotsaucaotsau
ㄘㄡts`outsoucoutsou
ㄘㄢts`antsancantsan
ㄘㄣts`entsencentson
ㄘㄤts`angtsangcangtsang
ㄘㄥts`engtsengcengtsong
ㄘㄨts`utsucutsu
ㄘㄨㄛts`otswocuotsuo
ㄘㄨㄟts`uitsweicuitsuei
ㄘㄨㄢts`uantswancuantsuan
ㄘㄨㄣts`untswencuntsun
ㄘㄨㄥts`ungtsungcongtsung
ssuszsise
ㄙㄚsasasasa
ㄙㄜseseseso
ㄙㄞsaisaisaisai
ㄙㄟseiseiseisei
ㄙㄠsaosausaosau
ㄙㄡsousousousou
ㄙㄢsansansansan
ㄙㄣsensensenson
ㄙㄤsangsangsangsang
ㄙㄥsengsengsengsong
ㄙㄨsusususu
ㄙㄨㄛsoswosuosuo
ㄙㄨㄟsuisweisuisuei
ㄙㄨㄢsuanswansuansuan
ㄙㄨㄣsunswensunsun
ㄙㄨㄥsungsungsongsung
aaaa
eeeo
aiaiaiai
eieieiei
aoauaoau
ouououou
anananan
enenenon
angangangang
erhererar
iyiyiyi
ㄧㄚyayayaya
ㄧㄝyehyeyeye
ㄧㄠyaoyauyaoyau
ㄧㄡyuyouyouyou
ㄧㄢyanyanyanyan
ㄧㄣyinyinyinyin
ㄧㄤyangyangyangyang
ㄧㄥyingyingyingying
wuwuwuwu
ㄨㄚwawawawa
ㄨㄛwowowowo
ㄨㄞwaiwaiwaiwai
ㄨㄟweiweiweiwei
ㄨㄢwanwanwanwan
ㄨㄣwenwenwenwon
ㄨㄤwangwangwangwang
ㄨㄥwengwengwengwong
yuyuyu
ㄩㄝyüehyweyueyue
ㄩㄢyüanywanyuanyuan
ㄩㄣyünyunyunyun
ㄩㄥyungyungyongyung

When two syllables are strung together there might occasionally be some confusion as to which letters belong to which syllable. Say if the first syllable were "ying" and the next were "on", it might look like the syllables were "yin" and "gon" instead. To avoid this sort of problem, simply insert an apostrophe like so: "ying'on".

In the Beijing dialect, /r/ (spelled simply "r" in both Hanyu Pinyin and the Jones system) may be appended to a given syllable. This has the affect of adding an [R] sound that syllable and deleting a preceding /n/ or /y/ coda if one exists. If this /r/ follows /N/, the /N/ is deleted, but not entirely. The preceding vowel becomes nasalized. One more change to note is that the main vowel of syllables ending in /yan/ and /ywan/ shifts from [E] to [A].

The final issue to tackle in any Chinese Romanization scheme is tone marking. Mandarin makes use of four full tones (high, rising, low, and falling) and one short, neutral tone, sort of like the schwa of tones. If you change the tone, you often change the word in Chinese, so the tones have to be marked somehow. Hanyu Pinyin makes heavy use of diacritic marks. The syllable /ma/ is spelled "ma" (in the neutral tone), "" (high), "" (rising), "" (low), and "" (falling).

This is acceptable in the Jones system, but another method, which makes use of fewer special characters, is also available. You could spell these same syllables as "ma", "máá", "maá", "maa", and "máa". This method might be better to use with those less familiar with Mandarin phonology because it highlights the simplicity of the tones. In each of these syllables "á" is a high pitched [a] sound, and "a" is [a] with a lower pitch. That's really all you need to describe the five tones of Mandarin Chinese.

Overall, the differences between Hanyu Pinyin and most other Romanization systems, including my own, is that Hanyu Pinyin was developed not by Westerners but by the Chinese government. Because of this, you see several attempts at space saving and internal consistency that take away from readability. For example, "qia" is read something like the English "cha", and "ca" is something like "tsa". In my system, these syllables are spelled "tya" and "tsa", respectively. You're probably familiar with the term "feng shui" but you may not know it's really more like "fung shrway" in Chinese. In the Jones system, this would be rendered "fong sruei". Neither system is perfect, but I think Jones Pinyin gets a lot closer.

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