Bopomofo

Bopomofo or Mandarin Phonetic Symbols, also named Zhuyin (Chinese: 注音), is a major Chinese transliteration system for Mandarin Chinese and other related languages and dialects, which is nowadays most commonly used in Taiwanese Mandarin. It is also used to transcribe other varieties of Chinese, particularly other varieties of Mandarin Chinese dialects, as well as Taiwanese Hokkien. Consisting of 37 characters and four tone marks, it transcribes all possible sounds in Mandarin. Bopomofo was introduced in China by the Republican Government in the 1910s and used alongside the Wade–Giles system, which used a modified Latin alphabet. Bopomofo is an official transliteration system in Taiwan, widely used as the main electronic input method for Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan (ROC), and used in dictionaries and other documents.

Bopomofo
注音符號
注音符号
(ㄅㄆㄇㄈ)
ㄅㄞˇ ㄎㄜ ㄑㄩㄢˊ ㄕㄨ 百科全書 百科全书 (encyclopedia) in Bopomofo
Script type
Semisyllabary
(letters for onsets and rhymes; diacritics for tones)
CreatorCommission on the Unification of Pronunciation
Introduced by the Beiyang government of the Republic of China
Time period
1918[1] to 1958 in mainland China (used in a secondary position to Hanyu Pinyin in all editions of Xiandai Hanyu Cidian from 1960 to present 2016 edition);
1945 to the present in Taiwan
Directionleft-to-right 
Related scripts
Parent systems
Oracle Bone Script
  • Seal Script
    • Clerical Script
      • Bopomofo
        注音符號
        注音符号
        (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ)
Child systems
Taiwanese Phonetic Symbols, Suzhou Phonetic Symbols, Hmu Phonetic Symbols
Sister systems
Simplified Chinese, Kanji, Hanja, Chữ Nôm, Khitan script
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Bopo, 285 , Bopomofo
Unicode
Unicode alias
Bopomofo
Unicode range
Mandarin Phonetic Symbol
Traditional Chinese注音符號
Simplified Chinese注音符号

Etymology

Bopomofo is the name used by the ISO and Unicode. Zhuyin (注音) literally means phonetic notation. The original formal name of the system was 國音字母; Guóyīn Zìmǔ; 'National Language Phonetic Alphabet' and 註音字母; Zhùyīn Zìmǔ; 'Phonetic Alphabet or Annotated Phonetic Letters'.[2] It was later renamed 注音符號; Zhùyīn Fúhào; 'phonetic symbols'. In official documents, Bopomofo is occasionally called "Mandarin Phonetic Symbols I" (國語注音符號第一式), abbreviated as "MPS I" (注音一式). The system is often also called either Chu-in or the Mandarin Phonetic Symbols.[2][3] A romanized phonetic system was released in 1984 as Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II (MPS II).

The name Bopomofo comes from the first four letters of the system: ㄅ, ㄆ, ㄇ and ㄈ.[4] Similar to the way that the word "alphabet" is ultimately derived from the names of the first two letters of the alphabet (alpha and beta), the name "Bopomofo" is derived from the first four syllables in the conventional ordering of available syllables in Mandarin Chinese. The four Bopomofo characters (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) that correspond to these syllables are usually placed first in a list of these characters. The same sequence is sometimes used by other speakers of Chinese to refer to other phonetic systems.

History

Origins

The Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation, led by Wu Zhihui from 1912 to 1913, created a system called Zhuyin Zimu,[2] which was based on Zhang Binglin's shorthand. It was used as the official phonetic script to annotate the sounds of the characters in accordance with the pronunciation system called "Old National Pronunciation" (Laoguoyin).[5] A draft was released on July 11, 1913, by the Republic of China National Ministry of Education, but it was not officially proclaimed until November 23, 1928.[2] It was later renamed first Guoyin Zimu and then, in April 1930, Zhuyin Fuhao. The last renaming addressed fears that the alphabetic system might independently replace Chinese characters.[6]

Modern use

Bopomofo is the predominant phonetic system in teaching reading and writing in elementary school in Taiwan. It is also the most popular way to enter Chinese characters into computers and smartphones and to look up characters in a dictionary.

In elementary school, particularly in the lower years, Chinese characters in textbooks are often annotated with Bopomofo as ruby characters as an aid to learning. Additionally, one children's newspaper in Taiwan, the Mandarin Daily News, annotates all articles with Bopomofo ruby characters.

In teaching Mandarin, Taiwan institutions and some overseas communities such as Filipino Chinese use Bopomofo.

Bopomofo is shown in a secondary position to Hanyu Pinyin in all editions of Xiandai Hanyu Cidian from the 1960 edition to the current 2016 edition (7th edition).

Symbols

Table showing Bopomofo in Gwoyeu Romatzyh
Bopomofo in Regular, Handwritten Regular & Cursive formats

The Bopomofo characters were created by Zhang Binglin, taken mainly from "regularized" forms of ancient Chinese characters, the modern readings of which contain the sound that each letter represents. The consonants are listed in order of place of articulation, from the front of the mouth to the back, /b/, /p/, /m/, /f/, /d/, /t/, /n/, /l/ etc.

Origin of bopomofo symbols
Consonants
BopomofoOrigin[7]IPAPinyinWGExample
From , the ancient form and current top portion of bāo, "to wrap up; package" pbp bāo
ㄅㄠ
From , a variant form of , "to knock lightly". p
ㄆㄨ
From , the archaic character and current "cover" radical mì. mmm
ㄇㄧˊ
From "right open box" radical fāng. fff匪 fěi
ㄈㄟˇ
From 𠚣, archaic form of dāo. Compare the Shuowen seal . tdt
ㄉㄧˋ
From , an upside-down form of and an ancient form of ( and in seal script)[8][9] t
ㄊㄧˊ
From /𠄎, ancient form of nǎi (be) nnn
ㄋㄧˇ
From 𠠲, archaic form of lll
ㄌㄧˋ
From the obsolete character guì/kuài "river" kgk gào
ㄍㄠˋ
From the archaic character, now "breath" or "sigh" component kǎo k kǎo
ㄎㄠˇ
From the archaic character and current radical hǎn xhh hǎo
ㄏㄠˇ
From the archaic character jiū jch jiào
ㄐㄧㄠˋ
From the archaic character 𡿨 quǎn, graphic root of the character chuān (modern ) tɕʰqchʻ qiǎo
ㄑㄧㄠˇ
From , an ancient form of xià. ɕxhs xiǎo
ㄒㄧㄠˇ
From /𡳿, archaic form of zhī. ʈʂzhi, zh-ch zhī
;
zhǔ
ㄓㄨˇ
From the character and radical chì ʈʂʰchi, ch-chʻ chī
;
chū
ㄔㄨ
From 𡰣, an ancient form of shī ʂshi, sh-sh shì
ㄕˋ;
shù
ㄕㄨˋ
Modified from the seal script form of (day/sun) ɻ~ʐri, r-j
ㄖˋ;

ㄖㄨˋ
From the archaic character and current radical jié, dialectically zié ([tsjě]; tsieh² in Wade–Giles) tszi, z-ts
ㄗˋ;
zài
ㄗㄞˋ
From 𠀁, archaic form of , dialectically ciī ([tsʰí]; tsʻi¹ in Wade–Giles). Compare semi-cursive form and seal-script . tsʰci, c-tsʻ
ㄘˊ;
cái
ㄘㄞˊ
From the archaic character , which was later replaced by its compound . ssi, s-s
ㄙˋ;
sāi
ㄙㄞ
Rhymes and medials
BopomofoOriginIPAPinyinWGExample
From aaa
ㄉㄚˋ
From the obsolete character 𠀀 , inhalation, the reverse of kǎo, which is preserved as a phonetic in the compound .[10] ooo duō
ㄉㄨㄛ
Derived from its allophone in Standard Chinese, o ɤeo/ê
ㄉㄜˊ
From (also). Compare the Warring States bamboo form e-ie/êeh diē
ㄉㄧㄝ
From 𠀅 hài, archaic form of . aiaiai shài
ㄕㄞˋ
From , an obsolete character meaning "to move". eieiei shéi
ㄕㄟˊ
From yāo auaoao shǎo
ㄕㄠˇ
From yòu ououou shōu
ㄕㄡ
From the archaic character 𢎘 hàn "to bloom", preserved as a phonetic in the compound fàn ananan shān
ㄕㄢ
From 𠃉, archaic variant of or [11] ( is yǐn according to other sources[12]) ənenên shēn
ㄕㄣ
From wāng angang shàng
ㄕㄤˋ
From 𠃋, archaic form of gōng[13] əŋengêng shēng
ㄕㄥ
From , the bottom portion of ér used as a cursive and simplified form erêrh ér
ㄦˊ
From (one) iyi, -ii
ㄧˇ;

ㄋㄧˋ
From , ancient form of (five). Compare the transitory form 𠄡. uw, wu, -uu/w
ㄋㄨˇ;

ㄨㄛˇ
From the ancient character , which remains as a radical yyu, -üü/yü
ㄩˇ;

ㄋㄩˇ

From the character . It represents the minimal vowel of ㄓ,ㄔ,ㄕ,ㄖ,ㄗ,ㄘ,ㄙ, though it is not used after them in transcription.[14] ɻ̩~ʐ̩, ɹ̩~-iih/ŭ
;
zhī
;

ㄙˇ

Writing

Stroke order

Bopomofo is written in the same stroke order rule as Chinese characters. Note that is written with three strokes, unlike the character from which it is derived (Chinese: ; pinyin: ), which has four strokes.

can be written as a vertical line () or a horizontal line (); both are accepted forms. Traditionally, it should be written as a horizontal line in vertical writing, and a vertical line in horizontal writing. The People's Republic of China almost exclusively uses horizontal writing, so the vertical form (in the rare occasion that Bopomofo is used) has become the standard form there. Language education in Taiwan generally uses vertical writing, so most people learn it as a horizontal line, and use a horizontal form even in horizontal writing. In 2008, the Taiwanese Ministry of Education decided that the primary form should always be the horizontal form, but that the vertical form is accepted alternative.[15] Unicode 8.0.0 published an errata in 2014 that updates the representative glyph to be the horizontal form.[16] Computer fonts may only display one form or the other, or may be able to display both if the font is aware of changes needed for vertical writing.

Tonal marks

As shown in the following table, tone marks for the second, third, and fourth tones are shared between bopomofo and pinyin. In bopomofo, the first tone mark is usually omitted but can be included,[17][18] while a dot above indicates the fifth tone (also known as the neutral tone). In pinyin, a macron (overbar) indicates the first tone, and the lack of a marker usually indicates the fifth (light) tone.

Tone Bopomofo Pinyin
Tone Marker Unicode Name Tone Marker Unicode Name
1 ˉ Modifier Letter Macron
(usually omitted)[17][18]
◌̄ Combining Macron
2 ˊ Modifier Letter Acute Accent ◌́ Combining Acute Accent
3 ˇ Caron ◌̌ Combining Caron
4 ˋ Modifier Letter Grave Accent ◌̀ Combining Grave Accent
5 ˙ Dot Above[19] · Middle Dot
(usually omitted)[20]

Unlike Hanyu Pinyin, Bopomofo aligns well with the Chinese characters in books whose texts are printed vertically, making Bopomofo better suited for annotating the pronunciation of vertically oriented Chinese text.

Bopomofo, when used in conjunction with Chinese characters, is typically placed to the right of the Chinese character vertically in a horizontal print[21][22] or to the top of the Chinese character in a horizontal print (see Ruby characters).

Example

Below is an example for the word "bottle" (pinyin: píngzi):



ㄥˊ
˙
,


ㄥˊ
˙
or
ㄆㄧㄥˊ˙ㄗ

Erhua transcription

Erhua-ed words merge as a single syllable, which means is attached to the precedent syllable (like 歌兒ㄍㄜㄦ gēr). In case the syllable uses other tones than 1st tone, the tone is attached to the penultimate syllable, but not to (e.g. 哪兒ㄋㄚˇㄦ nǎr; 點兒ㄉㄧㄢˇㄦ yīdiǎnr; ㄏㄠˇ玩兒ㄨㄢˊㄦ hǎowánr).[23]

Comparison

Pinyin

Bopomofo and pinyin are based on the same Mandarin pronunciations; hence there is a one-to-one correspondence between the two systems:

IPA and pinyin counterparts of Bopomofo finals
Rhyme
Medial [ɨ]
() 1

-i
[a]

a
-a
[o]
3
o
-o 3
[ɤ]

e
-e
[ai̯]

ai
-ai
[ei̯]

ei
-ei
[au̯]

ao
-ao
[ou̯]

ou
-ou
[an]

an
-an
[ən]

en
-en
[aŋ]

ang
-ang
[əŋ]

eng
-eng
[aɚ]

er
 
[i]

yi
-i
[i̯a]
ㄧㄚ
ya
-ia
[i̯e]
ㄧㄝ
ye
-ie
[i̯au̯]
ㄧㄠ
yao
-iao
[i̯ou̯]
ㄧㄡ
you
-iu
[i̯ɛn]
ㄧㄢ
yan
-ian
[in]
ㄧㄣ
yin
-in
[i̯aŋ]
ㄧㄤ
yang
-iang
[iŋ]
ㄧㄥ
ying
-ing
[u]

wu
-u
[u̯a]
ㄨㄚ
wa
-ua
[u̯o]
ㄨㄛ 3
wo
-uo 3
[u̯ai̯]
ㄨㄞ
wai
-uai
[u̯ei̯]
ㄨㄟ
wei
-ui
[u̯an]
ㄨㄢ
wan
-uan
[u̯ən]
ㄨㄣ
wen
-un
[u̯aŋ]
ㄨㄤ
wang
-uang
[u̯əŋ], [ʊŋ]
ㄨㄥ
weng
-ong 4
[y]

yu
2
[y̯e]
ㄩㄝ
yue
-üe 2
[y̯ɛn]
ㄩㄢ
yuan
-üan 2
[yn]
ㄩㄣ
yun
-ün 2
[i̯ʊŋ]
ㄩㄥ
yong
-iong

1 Not written.

2 ü is written as u after j, q, x, or y.

3 ㄨㄛ/-uo is written as /-o after /-b, /-p, /-m, /-f.

4 weng is pronounced [ʊŋ] (written as -ong) when it follows an initial.

Chart

Vowels a, e, o
IPA a ɔ ɛ ɤ ai ei au ou an ən əŋ ʊŋ
Pinyin aoaeaieiaoouanenangengonger
Tongyong Pinyin ee
Wade–Giles ehê/oênêngungêrh
Bopomofo ㄨㄥ
example
Vowels i, u, y
IPA i je jou jɛn in jʊŋ u wo wei wən wəŋ y ɥe ɥɛn yn
Pinyin yiyeyouyanyinyingyongwuwo/oweiwenwengyuyueyuanyun
Tongyong Pinyin wunwong
Wade–Giles i/yiyehyuyenyungwênwêngyüehyüanyün
Bopomofo ㄧㄝㄧㄡㄧㄢㄧㄣㄧㄥㄩㄥㄨㄛ/ㄛㄨㄟㄨㄣㄨㄥㄩㄝㄩㄢㄩㄣ
example
Non-sibilant consonants
IPA p m fəŋ tjou twei twən tʰɤ ny ly kɤɚ kʰɤ
Pinyin bpmfengdiuduiduntegekehe
Tongyong Pinyin fongdioudueinyulyu
Wade–Giles ppʻfêngtiutuituntʻêkokʻoho
Bopomofo ㄈㄥㄉㄧㄡㄉㄨㄟㄉㄨㄣㄊㄜㄋㄩㄌㄩㄍㄜㄎㄜㄏㄜ
example
Sibilant consonants
IPA tɕjɛn tɕjʊŋ tɕʰin ɕɥɛn ʈʂɤ ʈʂɨ ʈʂʰɤ ʈʂʰɨ ʂɤ ʂɨ ɻɤ ɻɨ tsɤ tswo tsɨ tsʰɤ tsʰɨ
Pinyin jianjiongqinxuanzhezhichechisheshirerizezuozicecisesi
Tongyong Pinyin jyongcinsyuanjhejhihchihshihrihzihcihsih
Wade–Giles chienchiungchʻinhsüanchêchihchʻêchʻihshêshihjihtsêtsotzŭtsʻêtzʻŭssŭ
Bopomofo ㄐㄧㄢㄐㄩㄥㄑㄧㄣㄒㄩㄢㄓㄜㄔㄜㄕㄜㄖㄜㄗㄜㄗㄨㄛㄘㄜㄙㄜ
example
Tones
IPA ma˥˥ ma˧˥ ma˨˩˦ ma˥˩ ma
Pinyin ma
Tongyong Pinyin ma
Wade–Giles ma1ma2ma3ma4ma
Bopomofo ㄇㄚㄇㄚˊㄇㄚˇㄇㄚˋ˙ㄇㄚ
example (Chinese characters)

Use outside Standard Mandarin

Bopomofo symbols for non-Mandarin Chinese varieties are added to Unicode in the Bopomofo Extended block.

Taiwanese Hokkien

In Taiwan, Bopomofo is used to teach Taiwanese Hokkien, and is also used to transcribe it phonetically in contexts such as on storefront signs, karaoke lyrics, and film subtitles.

Three letters were formerly used in the 1913 standard of Mandarin as well as in non-Mandarin.

BopomofoIPAGRPinyin
vvv
ŋngng
ɲgnny

Cantonese

The following letters are used in Cantonese.[24]

BopomofoIPAJyutping
gw
kʷʰkw
ɵeo
ɐa

If a syllable ends with a consonant other than -an or -aan, the consonant's letter is added, followed by a final middle dot.

-ㄞ is used for [aːi] (aai) (e.g. 敗, ㄅㄞ baai6)

-ㄣ is used for [ɐn] (an) (e.g. 跟, ㄍㄣ gan1), and -ㄢ is used for [aːn] (aan) (e.g. 間, ㄍㄢ gaan1). Other vowels that end with -n use -ㄋ· for the final ㄋ. (e.g. 見, ㄍㄧㄋ· gin3)

-ㄡ is used for [ɐu] (au). (e.g. 牛, ㄫㄡ, ngau4) To transcribe [ou] (ou), it is written as ㄛㄨ (e.g. 路, ㄌㄛㄨ lou6)

ㄫ is used for both initial ng- (as in 牛, ㄫㄡ, ngau "cow") and final -ng (as in 用, ㄧㄛㄫ·, yong "use").

ㄐ is used for [t͡s] (z) (e.g. 煑, ㄐㄩ zyu2) and ㄑ is used for [t͡sʰ] (c) (e.g. 全, ㄑㄩㄋ· cyun4).

During the time when Bopomofo was proposed for Cantonese, tones were not marked.

Computer uses

Input method

An example of a Bopomofo keypad for Taiwan

Bopomofo can be used as an input method for Chinese characters. It is one of the few input methods that can be found on most modern personal computers without the user having to download or install any additional software. It is also one of the few input methods that can be used for inputting Chinese characters on certain cell phones.. On the QWERTY keyboard, the symbols are ordered columwise top-down (e.g. 1+Q+A+Z )

A typical keyboard layout for Bopomofo on computers

Unicode

Bopomofo was added to the Unicode Standard in October 1991 with the release of version 1.0.

The Unicode block for Bopomofo is U+3100U+312F:

Bopomofo[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
 0123456789ABCDEF
U+310x
U+311x
U+312x
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Additional characters were added in September 1999 with the release of version 3.0.

The Unicode block for these additional characters, called Bopomofo Extended, is U+31A0U+31BF:

Bopomofo Extended[1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
 0123456789ABCDEF
U+31Ax
U+31Bx
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0

Unicode 3.0 also added the characters U+02EA ˪ MODIFIER LETTER YIN DEPARTING TONE MARK and U+02EB ˫ MODIFIER LETTER YANG DEPARTING TONE MARK, in the Spacing Modifier Letters block. These two characters are now (since Unicode 6.0) classified as Bopomofo characters.[25]

Tonal marks for bopomofo
Spacing Modifier Letters
ToneTone MarkerUnicodeNote
1 Yin Ping (Level)ˉU+02C9Usually omitted
2 Yang Ping (Level)ˊU+02CA
3 Shang (Rising)ˇU+02C7
4 Qu (Departing)ˋU+02CB
4a Yin Qu (Departing)˪U+02EAFor Minnan and Hakka languages
4b Yang Qu (Departing)˫U+02EBFor Minnan and Hakka languages
5 Qing (Neutral)˙U+02D9

See also

  • Kana
  • Chinese input methods for computers
  • Fanqie
  • Furigana
  • Ruby character
  • Taiwanese Phonetic Symbols
  • Zhuyin table
  • Hangul

References

  1. 中國文字改革委員會 (Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Written Language). 漢語拼音方案(草案) (Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet (Draft)). Beijing. Feb 1956. Page 15. "注音字母是1913年拟定,1918年公布的。"
  2. The Republic of China government, Government Information Office. "Taiwan Yearbook 2006: The People & Languages". Archived from the original on 2007-05-09. |Also available at
  3. Taiwan Headlines. "Taiwan Headlines: Society News: New Taiwanese dictionary unveiled". Government Information Office, Taiwan(ROC). Archived from the original on 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  4. "Zhuyin fuhao / Bopomofo (注音符號/ㄅㄆㄇㄈ)" Omniglot
  5. Dong, Hongyuan. A History of the Chinese Language. Fisher. p. 133.
  6. John DeFrancis. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu, HI, USA: University of Hawaii Press, 1984. p. 242.
  7. 國音學 (8th Edition). (2008). Pages 27-30. Taiwan: 國立臺灣師範大學. 國音敎材編輯委員會.
  8. Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠫓.
  9. KangXi: page 164, character 1http://www.kangxizidian.com/kangxi/0164.gif
  10. "Unihan data for U+20000".
  11. Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠃉.
  12. "Unihan data for U+4E5A".
  13. Wenlin dictionary, entry 𠃋.
  14. Michael Everson, H. W. Ho, Andrew West, "Proposal to encode one Bopomofo character in the UCS", SC2 WG2 N3179.
  15. Unicode document L2/14-189
  16. Unicode Consortium, "Errata Fixed in Unicode 8.0.0"
  17. Department of Lifelong Education, Ministry of Education 教育部終身教育司, ed. (January 2017). 國語注音手冊 (in Chinese). Ministry of Education; Digital version: Wanderer Digital Publishing Inc. 汪達數位出版股份有限公司. pp. 2, 7. ISBN 978-986-051-481-0. 韻符「ㄭ」,陰平調號「」,注音時省略不標{...}陰平 以一短橫代表高平之聲調,注音時可省略不標。標注在字音最後一個符號右上角。
  18. Department of Lifelong Education, Ministry of Education 教育部終身教育司, ed. (January 2017). The Manual of the Phonetic Symbols of Mandarin Chinese (in English and Chinese). Ministry of Education; Digital version: Wanderer Digital Publishing Inc. 汪達數位出版股份有限公司. pp. 2, 7. ISBN 978-986-051-869-6. the rhyme symbol,“ㄭ”, and the mark of Yin-ping tone, “”, would be left out on Bopomofo notes.{...}1st tone This high and level tone can be noted as a short dash mark and could be left out in Bopomofo note. This tone should be left out.
  19. "A study of neutral-tone syllables in Taiwan Mandarin" (PDF). p. 3.
  20. The middle dot may optionally precede light-tone syllables only in reference books (辞书), see section 7.3 Archived 2016-02-17 at the Wayback Machine of the PRC national standard GB/T 16159-2012 Basic rules of the Chinese phonetic alphabet orthography.
  21. "Bopomofo on Taiwanese street - with English - Nov 2016 2".
  22. "A left arrow direction sign in Taipei Municipal Dunhua Elementary School using bopomofo along with Traditional Chinese characters".
  23. "The Zhuyin Alphabet 注音字母 Transcription System (Bo-po-mo-fo) (www.chinaknowledge.de)". www.chinaknowledge.de.
  24. Yang, Ben; Chan, Eiso. "Proposal to encode Cantonese Bopomofo Characters" (PDF).
  25. "Scripts-6.0.0.txt". Unicode Consortium.
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