By the standard, Basic Spelling Rules for Pinyin Orthography, called “汉语拼音正词基本规则” in Chinese, issued in 1988 from National Education Commission and national Language Commission of P.R. China, spacing in Pinyin is based on whole words, not syllables.
Since word segmentation is complicated and there are often ambiguities on how to partition a word and group the syllable, people still write Pinyin text syllable by syllable.
In Level-1 lessons of Kids Chinese Podcast, we write Pinyin syllable by syllable for beginners to read and understand Pinyin easily.
Spelling General Rules
1. A Word is the basic unit for spelling the Chinese Common Language.
- 狗, gǒu (English translation: dog)
- 朋友, péngyou (English translation: friend)
- 电视机, diànshìjī (English translation: television)
2. Structures of two or three syllables that indicate a complete concept are written together.
- 全班, quánbān (English translation: the whole class)
- 对不起, duìbuqǐ (English translation: sorry)
3. Separate terms with more than 4 syllables if they can be separated into words, otherwise write all the syllables together.
- 经济危机, jīngjì wēijī (English translation: financial crisis)
- 研究生院, yánjiūshēngyuàn (English translation: graduate school)
- 红十字会, Hóngshízìhuì (English translation: Red Cross)
4. Reduplicated monosyllabic words are written together, but reduplicated disyllabic words are separated.
- 人人, rénrén (English translation: everybody)
- 尝试尝试, chángshi chángshi (English translation: give it a try)
5. Surnames and given names (xìngmíng/míngzi) are written separately in the Chinese Han language. The first letters of surnames and the given names are capitalized. Pen names (bǐmíng) and nicknames (biémíng) are written according to the same principles:
- 王建国, Wáng Jiànguó
- 东方 章, Dōngfāng Zhāng
- 朔 三, Shuò Sān
A personal name and the person’s professional title are separated.
- 王教授, Wáng jiāoshòu (English translation: Professor Wang)
- 李校长, Lǐ xiàozhǎng (English translation: Principle Li)
6. Personal and place names not in the Chinese Han language, are written either in the original language or transcribed in Roman letters.
- Einstein (Ài’īnsītǎn)
- London (Lúndūn)
- Washington (Huáshèngdùn)
Foreign names transcribed in the Chinese Han language are written according to the pronunciation of the corresponding characters.
- 查里, chá lǐ (English translation: Charley)
- 萨拉, sà lā (English translation: Sarah)
- 色拉, sè lā (English translation: salad)
7. (Monosyllabic) action verbs are written together with the suffixes zhe, le, guo.
- 看着, kànzhe (English translation: reading/looking)
- 看了, kànle (English translation: read once at a past moment)
- 看过, kànguò (English translation: have/had read at least once)
Le at the end of a sentence is separated from the sentence.
电车到了. diànchē dào le (English translation: The train came/has come).
Pinyin Spelling Rules
We have covered some of the "Pinyin rules" in "Pronunciation Guide" or "Notes" of each Pinyin Lesson. Here is a short summary.
The following seven groups of single syllables cover all Chinese Pinyin spelling.
- 1. The final "iou" becomes the short form of "iu" when spelt with an initial. Namely, "iou = iu".
- 2. The final "uei" becomes the short form of "ui" when spelt with an initial. Namely, "uei = ui".
- 3. The final "uen" becomes the short form of "un" when spelt with an initial. Namely, "uen = un".
- 4. The final “ü” is written as “u” (no ūmlaut) after j, q, x, or y, and also "üen" changes into "un". Namely, "jü = ju", "qü = qu", "xü = xu", and "yü = yu"; "jüen = jun", "qüen = qun", "xüen = xun", "yüen = yun".
- 5. "i" in the syllables "zi", "ci" and "si" is not the common final "i", but a blade-alveolar vowel. The pronunciations of the syllables "zi", "ci" and "si" are the same as those of the initials "z", "c" and "s". Namely, "zi = z", "ci = c", and "si = s".
- 6. "i" in the syllables "zhi", "chi" "shi" and "ri" is not the common final "i", but a blade-alveolar vowel. The pronunciations of the syllables "zhi", "chi", "shi" and "ri" are the same as those of the initials "zh", "ch", "sh", and "r". Namely, "zhi = zh", "chi = ch", "Shi = sh" and "ri = r".
- 7. When finals "i", "u" and “ü” make syllables themselves without preceding. They are written as, "i = y", "u = W", "ü = yu".
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