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Peking-Nanking Mandarin Romanisation (平寧官話羅馬字)


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The American Presbyterian Mission Press published the Educational Association of China's Primer of the Standard System of Mandarin Romanization in 1904, whose spellings reflected both the Beijing and Nanjing character readings (the two most popular at the time). In a way, it is analogous to the Vietnamese Quốc Ngữ spelling system, in that it is used to represent both northern and southern pronunciations through a unified orthography.


I decided to transcribe this system onto a single intuitively organised page for anyone interested. The book itself can be found for free on Google Books in digital form, but it's horribly organised. A few typos were corrected, such as 要→耍 and 啍→哼, and all variant forms were left intact to the extent possible (only 缺 had a rare variant that doesn't exist in Unicode). This system doesn't make as many distinctions as did 老國音 a decade later, but it does make some unique distinctions, like 爭/正 and 撐/成 (whereby the first of the pair is grade II whilst the second of the pair is grade III). Also, 事 and 生 change from an 'sh' initial to an 's' initial, which forces 思 to adopt the unique initial 'sz' in order to remain distinct. These unique features can be seen in the bottom-right corner of the chart. The main difference between this system and 老國音, which had a very similar scope and aim, is that the former was more descriptive (merging living dialects while maximising distinctions), whilst the latter was more prescriptive (applying modern phonological filters to the Middle Chinese rime tables). We obviously cannot in good faith refer to it as 'Standard Mandarin Romanisation' today, and since I couldn't find a Chinese name, I felt 平寧官話羅馬字 to be most appropriate. Besides being the politically neutral abbreviated forms of Peking and Nanking—that is, without designating either as the capital—平寧 is a contraction of 平和寧靜, which seems auspicious to me. If I ever decide to update this system, I'll probably call it 平寧官話拼音, or the pinyin of the hypothetical 'Pingning dialect' of Mandarin.



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