In order to provide better service to library users, the Library of Congress is moving to adopt the pinyin system of romanization of Chinese. That system has already been the standard for the United States Government for more than two decades; it is also the standard used by the United Nations and most of the world's media.
As a first step in changing to a new romanization system for Chinese, the Library circulated draft Chinese romanization guidelines for comment. Many thoughtful comments were received, from inside the Library, as well as from American institutions and several national libraries. Now, having taken those comments into consideration, the new guidelines will be issued as part of the ALA-LC romanization tables.
The new romanization guidelines for Chinese are based on the pinyin system. These guidelines are intended to serve the bibliographic and information needs of the Library, as well as the interests of the wider library community. They are intended to be clear and unambiguous; to be easy for library users to learn and to follow; to lend themselves to the greatest possible consistency of application; and to best facilitate eventual conversion from the current Wade-Giles system.
The date of implementation of the new standard ("Day 1") has not yet been determined. The new guidelines are being issued in advance of Day 1 and the conversion of files to facilitate planning for those events.
The new guidelines are based on Han yu pin yin fang an, the Chinese text which constitutes the foundation of pinyin romanization. As with other romanization schemes, Chinese romanization procedures have been adapted for use in American libraries. Tone marks will not be given. To promote consistency of practice, words of non-Chinese origin will always be romanized systematically.
Individual syllables will continue to be romanized separately, except in the cases of personal names, geographic locations, and certain proper nouns. These exceptions will be familiar to Library users, since those syllables that were hyphenated in Wade-Giles will now be joined in pinyin. The names of geographic locations will generally be joined, following the guidance of the Board on Geographic Names (BGN). (As is the case now, systematically romanized forms may differ from the form used as access points.)
Separation of syllables was felt to be an approach that can be conveniently and consistently applied to the full range of Chinese texts. It will help assure that converted LC records will maintain their consistency with those found on both utilities by allowing OCLC to continue to separate individual syllables with a space, while also making it possible for RLIN to maintain its practice of inserting a joining character between certain syllables. The separation of syllables should also facilitate international exchange of Chinese bibliographic data in the future.
Non-numerical dates will continue to be romanized as separate syllables, except in the case of reign periods that are also the names of emperors. In those latter instances, the syllables of the name of the reign period will be connected, in the same manner as the name of the emperor.
An apostrophe will be inserted between joined syllables in several clearly defined instances for the sake of clarification. This standard Chinese romanization practice will be especially helpful to the many users who are without access to vernacular text.
Romanization of Chinese will be based upon standard national Chinese pronunciation. Procedures are provided for determining standard pronunciation. One source is prescribed for making semantic distinctions. To determine contemporary pronunciation, however, the guidelines suggest that one may consult one of several recently published standard dictionaries, or a more specialized dictionary when romanizing specialized texts. The list of standard dictionaries was suggested by the National Library of China. One is advised to use judgment in selecting the appropriate reference source, depending upon the situation.
Procedures for punctuation will not change from Wade-Giles practice. Capitalization practice will also remain the same, except that the first letter of each separately written word of a geographic name, including generic terms for jurisdictions and topographic features, will now be capitalized, following BGN practice.
The number of special characters used in pinyin romanization will be reduced to only two: the apostrophe and the dieresis (umlaut). Each will be employed only infrequently. The apostrophe, used in those rare instances when joined syllables need to be clarified, can be found on all standard keyboards. The dieresis, required only to distinguish between the sounds lu and lü, nu and nü, will also be used infrequently.
A correspondence table is included in order to show the usual relationship between Wade-Giles and pinyin romanizations. Chinese is a dynamic language, and dictionaries frequently indicate different ranges of possible sounds for Chinese characters. Therefore, the correspondence table is not intended to be prescriptive or comprehensive, but is merely provided to help library users make the transition to the new system of romanization.
Philip Melzer, chair, Pinyin Task Group
November 3, 1998
The table below presents Wade-Giles syllabic readings found in Di ming Han zi yi yin biao (1971) and the ALA-LC romanization tables (1997), and Pinyin equivalents based on sounds and romanizations found in Xian dai Han yu ci dian (1983). It is provided as a device to show the usual relationship between Wade-Giles and pinyin romanizations. This list is not exhaustive but presents most of the Wade-Giles romanizations that are likely to be found in older cataloging records. Similarly, the syllables which are possible using the Pinyin system of romanization are not limited to those contained in this list.