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For LSHK Jyutping to succeed


ParkeNYU
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LSHK Jyutping is a nice, phonemically robust system of Romanising Cantonese that is clearly gaining popularity and overtaking the second-most widely used system, Yale. Although it is easy to type and somewhat easy to read (I personally prefer the letter 'y' for /j/), there is one glaring feature that is lacking, which Hanyu Pinyin addressed brilliantly: tone marks. There's nothing wrong with the numbered system in and of itself (Hanyu Pinyin also uses a numbered system), but it is simply cumbersome to read. Although tone numbers are fantastic for typing Cantonese, I feel that tone diacritics are more natural in reading, and they also save some space on the page too! Professor Bun-Ching Chow employed her own tone marks in several of her textbooks, including the wonderful Cantonese For Everyone, and while these diacritics are largely agreeable, there are two main problems that are easy to fix:

 

1) The ring diacritic [ ˚ ] for Tone 3 does not allow for a pre-composed accented character aside from å and ů. The other three vowel letters are thus often displayed incorrectly with this diacritic. I also feel that it is an unintuitive mark for this tone, although that is subjective.
2) The elbow diacritic [ L ] for Tone 6 requires a custom LSHK font to display, and cannot be typed with any keyboard configuration (you must instead use an online converter after downloading and installing this font).

 

In short, her system is just too difficult to type, and thus won't likely gain much traction.

 

I feel that the following tone marks keep Chow's system largely intact, with a few changes:

 

1: āa / ā / ē / ī / ō / ū / ōe / ēo / yū
2: áa / á / é / í / ó / ú / óe / éo / yú
3: âa / â / ê / î / ô / û / ôe / êo / yû (replaces the unintuitive and cumbersome-to-type/display circle diacritic)
4: àa / à / è / ì / ò / ù / òe / èo / yù
5: ǎa / ǎ / ě / ǐ / ǒ / ǔ / ǒe / ěo / yǔ
6: aa / a / e / i / o / u / oe / eo / yu (discards the very-difficult-to-type/display non-Unicode-compliant elbow diacritic)

 

As you can see, all five diacritics have pre-composed/pre-rendered forms with all five vowel letters (no messy combining diacritics that may cause display errors).

 

All of these diacritics may also be easily typed with the Extended U.S. Keyboard configuration (Macintosh):

 

Tone 1: sī [option+a]
Tone 2: sí [option+e]
Tone 3: sî [option+6]
Tone 4: sì [option+`]
Tone 5: sǐ [option+v]
Tone 6: si

(surely Windows has something comparable)

 

Since Tone 6 is unmarked, the elbow diacritic may be optionally added to facilitate a student's pronunciation, as this unique diacritic is indeed an appropriate and intuitive representation of that tone. Tone 3, on the other hand, is not intuitively represented by the ring diacritic. The circumflex suits this tone more naturally because it acts as an abstract arrow that prompts the reader to 'lift', 'boost', or 'pull up' the unmarked Tone 6 by one degree (to change [22] into [33]); it may also be thought of as a downwardly bent macron (Tone 1).

 

Overall, I feel that these small changes would allow Jyutping to become an even more viable future standard for the Cantonese language, and they do not contradict any LSHK conventions (only Chow's personal ones, and only slightly). As with Hanyu Pinyin, the tone marks coexist with the numbers. Naturally, LSHK's Jyutping will need more than tone marks to realise full success as an official standard (namely the compliance of the Hong Kong Education Bureau / Institute of Education), but I nevertheless think that this modest addition would make a great start.

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Hanyu Pinyin also uses a numbered system

No it doesn't.  People adopted numbers because tones were troublesome to type, not because it's a part of the system.

 

 

 

the elbow diacritic may be optionally added to facilitate a student's pronunciation

Making it optional is a bad choice because you'll get a proliferation of mixed usage (some people using it, some not) making it trickier for example to use a computer to search for all instances of a word containing that syllable (you'll have to search both with and without etc).

 

Make it essential or don't include it all.

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OP, how do you plan to take your proposal forward? I guess writing on these forums would not get your proposals implemented. Any action plans?

PS - I agree with imron.

PPS - As a user, I want something really simple and easy to understand, learn, retain and use. I think anything that is more complicated than what things already are will meet with rejection. I currently type on my cell using the Google Cantonese Input method. It is intelligent enough that makes typing tonemarks unnecessary (the same applies to the Google Hanyu Pinyin input method). That said, I fully understand that tonemarks are necessary for the learners of the languages.

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Very few people will bother to type diacritics. They will use numbers unless there is something (like this) that makes it trivial to type.

 

Therefore, if you chose these diacritics because of their accessibility on a certain keyboard, I recommend ditching them for the more intuitive diacritics I mentioned elsewhere.

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People adopted numbers because tones were troublesome to type, not because it's a part of the system.

 

The numbered convention is a widely accepted compatibility feature; the standard itself stipulates diacritics.

 

 

Making it optional is a bad choice because you'll get a proliferation of mixed usage (some people using it, some not) making it trickier for example to use a computer to search for all instances of a word containing that syllable (you'll have to search both with and without etc). Make it essential or don't include it all.

 

This diacritic has no unicode value, so it cannot be used in any character searches. If it has to be one or the other, I would support having no diacritic for Tone 6. My suggestion to make it optional was strictly for educational use, since textbooks can print whatever glyphs they can imagine. There are certain exercises wherein students are asked to fill in the missing tones, which is when this diacritic would come in handy.

 

 

how do you plan to take your proposal forward? I guess writing on these forums would not get your proposals implemented. Any action plans?

 

As with any of my ideas, I want public feedback first. I can then contact people with more influence, like Chow Bun Ching, Mike Campbell, Polyhedron, etc.

 

 

Very few people will bother to type diacritics.

 

That's why, as with Hanyu Pinyin, diacritics are used almost exclusively in handwriting and reading. People will indeed type with numbers instead if they wish to indicate tones. Also, as skylee pointed out, most people ignore tones when using Chinese IMEs anyway.

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The numbered convention is a widely accepted compatibility feature

Alternatively, this could be worded as: The numbered convention is a widely used bastardisation of the system.

My suggestion to make it optional was strictly for educational use, since textbooks cant print whatever glyphs they can imagine

So now searching electronic versions of those textbooks becomes impossible. As I said above, making something optional will lead to a mix of both styles, which I think will ultimately harm any standard and make it more difficult for learners.
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The numbered convention is a widely used bastardisation of the system.

 

Yeah, it's a pain in the ass to read, and I always prefer diacritics (except over ü, but I use v̄ v́ v̌ v̀ anyway). However, hitting number keys is the easiest and most intuitive way to enter tones into an IME, unless you have a better idea...

 

Well, who acknowledges tones when using a pinyin IME anyway?

 

making something optional will lead to a mix of both styles, which I think will ultimately harm any standard and make it more difficult for learners.

 

I'll nix the six and leave it unmarked, then. You're right, no need to complicate it. Is there any other issue you have with these tone marks?

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However, hitting number keys is the easiest and most intuitive way to enter tones into an IME, unless you have a better idea

Nope, I agree completely, which is why this is how it works in the IME I created to type Pinyin with tone marks.

Is there any other issue you have with these tone marks?

I don't know Cantonese, so can't really comment on how appropriate they are. I did like the idea Hofmann mentioned in the other thread of having the tones under the letters, but you seem to be aiming for fully composed characters rather than combining diacritics.

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I did like the idea Hofmann mentioned in the other thread of having the tones under the letters, but you seem to be aiming for fully composed characters rather than combining diacritics.

 

Generally speaking, I indeed prefer Hofmann's recommendation, and my own Romanisation system implements exactly that. It's hands-down the most intuitive way to mark tones for non-tonal-language speakers using diacritics. 

 

However, after speaking with a few people with ties to the LSHK, it became clear that lowered diacritics wouldn't be acceptable (for aesthetic reasons? compatibility? I'm not quite sure). Since the general preference in that circle is for top-fixed diacritics, I figured that it would be best to limit a standard script to fully composed characters (as is the case with Hanyu Pinyin, after all). This, I feel, is the safest and most robust option for a viable universal Cantonese standard. Besides, Jyutping was designed with native speakers in mind (domestic use), so what is intuitive for foreigners doesn't necessarily apply to the same degree here (as it would in, say, Yale, which was directed at foreign learners specifically).

 

I'll still use my own systems for personal use, but that doesn't mean that I can't support a reasonable standard for communication.

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To be honest, top-and-bottom diacritics would probably be more intuitive to native speakers as well. I suppose my point was that native speakers already have the pitches and contours set in their minds, so they would be better able to assign them to more abstract symbols. Students of Cantonese, on the other hand, would benefit specifically from tone marks reflecting the actual pitch levels and contours; the process of reading itself would help better acquaint them with the tones.

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I actually think I would use the diacritics in #1 in teaching materials. Not that I teach Cantonese ever, but my sister is trying to learn and I think I might do up some worksheets for her using them.

 

Zūk daai gāa gūng héi fâat còi~

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  • 1 month later...

Perhaps the tone diacritics I chose for my own Romanisation could apply well here:

 

gôu¹ héi² būn³ càm⁴ jõeng⁵ hăa⁶

 

I concede that it is further removed from Hanyu Pinyin, but I feel that these shapes are better suited to the Cantonese language.

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