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Shanghainese romanization


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Although not entirely on-topic, here are a couple of articles (gleaned from a Cantonese forum) about Shanghainese teaching and usage.




I have actually just come back from a week in Shanghai and I was surprised at how prevalent Shanghainese still is. I definitely heard much more Shanghainese than Mandarin, even in touristy places.

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I have asked dozens of Shanghainese what they think of their younger generation not speaking the local dialect and most people think it is important to speak Mandarin.

I ask if they don't see it as a culture and heritage being lost but most people don't see it that way. Shrug of the shoulders...

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I’ve made my own romanization system. I wanted something simple, logical, intuitive, no diacritics or numbers. And with a bit of aesthetics. It can be used for Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese and maybe Taiwanese (S. Min) or Hakka.

This is it:

b p ph[pʰ] v f m

d t th[tʰ] z s n

g k kh[kʰ] h[ɦ] hh[h] ng[ŋ] l

Affricates: ts tsh[tsʰ]

Palatal(lized): dzi[dʑ] tsi[tɕ] tsh[tɕʰ] zi[ʑ] si[ɕ] ni[ɲ]

Retroflex: j[ʐ] hj[ʂ] tj[tʂ] tjh[ʂʰ]

     /h/ before a letter indicates an unvoiced consonant and after a letter/group of letters it indicates aspiration. It's voiced [ɦ] only when precedes a vowel.

i  iu[y]         u

e eo[ø] oe[ɤ] o

    ea[ɐ]  oa[ɔ]


/o/ and /u/ after a vowel indicate roundness (for Cantonese diphthong /iu/, I will double the ’i’ sound-- /iiu/).

/e/ after a vowel indicates an unrounded vowel, while /a/ after it shows openness. The glottal stop [ʔ] is shown by putting a /'/ after the vowel. For nazalization, I write ng[ŋ] after the vowel.

          For the tones, I use signs like /?/ and /!/ to indicate high rising and high falling. The high-flat tone will stay unmarked, the middle-flat tone will be rendered by /-/ and the low flat tone is /_/. The low rising tone is /,/ (it resembles a bit the question mark) and the low falling is (.), a simple dot (I think of it as the dot from the exclamation mark).

          For the entering tones: I already said that short/clipped vowels have a glottal stop after them written as an apostrophe.


          Do you speak...?

Mandarin: /ni. hjuo Phu.Thung hhua! ma_ / (notice that I also mark the „neutral” tone)

Cantonese: /nei, sik m. sik kong? Kuong?tong ua? a- /

Shanghainese: /nong, Zanghheheuo kangtoe’le va, / (because of tone sandhi, for Shanghainese I only need to highlight the tones of single syllable words).

          What do you think?

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My point was that by appropriating punctuation marks for tones, you might run in to problems when people want to use punctuation marks as punctuation.


And while classical chinese was written without punctuation, the use punctuation in modern standard mandarin is prevalent, even for sentences that have question particles at the end.

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The absolute best Wu Romanisation (Shanghai and Suzhou) that I've come across is called the 'Long-Short Romanisation':




Finals are divided into three main branches (excluding the autonomous syllables): Long Vowels, Nasal-Coda Short Vowels, Stop-Coda Short Vowels. It's just brilliant.


Unfortunately, most learning materials I've seen use only IPA or some kind of bastardised Hanyu Pinyin.

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Actually Shanghainese is just an accent of Chinese. Most of Mandarin and Shanghinese have the same grammar and vocabulary. What's different is that they have different pronunciation  and a few different usage in vocab. There is no characters for Shanghinese, but you can use words which are similar to the pronunciation of Shanghainese  to express your meanning. For example,in mandarin: 昨天你们去哪了?(Where did you go yesterday ),in Shanghainese you can say:昨捏那七啊里答? Shanghainese speakers will understand what you mean. Because it has no invariant characters, it's not a efficient way to learn it by a book. I think to learn mandarin well and then to talk with Shanghainese speakers frequently may benefit you a lot.

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