Saturday, October 4, 2008

Latinxua Sin Wenz

Latinxua Sin Wenz is a little-used romanization system for Mandarin Chinese. It was usually written without tones under the assumption that the proper tones could be understood from context.

Latinxua is historically notable as being the first romanization system used in place of Chinese characters by native Chinese speakers. It was originally developed by the Soviet Union and used by Chinese immigrants there until the majority of them left the country. Later, it was revived for some time in Northern China where it was used in over 300 publications before its usage ceased by the PRC.

History and development

The work towards constructing the Beifangxua Latinxua Sin Wenz system began in Moscow as early as 1928 when the Soviet Scientific Research Institute on China sought to create a means through which the large Chinese population living in the far eastern region of the U.S.S.R. could be made literate, facilitating their further education.

This was significantly different from all other romanization schemes in that, from the very outset, it was intended that the Latinxua Sin Wenz system, once established, would supersede the Chinese characters. They decided to use the Latin alphabet because they thought that it would serve their purpose better than the Cyrillic alphabet. Unlike Gwoyeu Romatzyh, with its complex method of indicating tones, Latinxua Sin Wenz system does not indicate tones at all, and it is not Mandarin-specific and so could be used for other Chinese languages and dialects.

The eminent Moscow-based Chinese scholar Qu Qiubai and the Russian linguist V.S. Kolokolov devised a prototype romanization system in 1929.

In 1931 a coordinated effort between the Soviet sinologists B.M. Alekseev, A.A. Dragunov and A.G. Shrprintsin, and the Moscow-based Chinese scholars Qu Qiubai, Wu Yuzhang, Lin Boqu , Xiao San, Wang Xiangbao, and Xu Teli established the Latinxua Sin Wenz system. The system was supported by a number of Chinese intellectuals such as Guo Moruo and Lu Xun, and trials were conducted amongst 100,000 Chinese immigrant workers for about four years and later, in 1940-1942, in the communist-controlled Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region of China. In November 1949, the railways in China's north-east adopted the Latinxua Sin Wenz system for all their telecommunications.

For a time, the system was very important in spreading literacy in Northern China; and more than 300 publications totalling half a million issues appeared in Latinxua Sin Wenz. However:

In 1944 the latinization movement was officially curtailed in the communist-controlled areas on the pretext that there were insufficient trained cadres capable of teaching the system. It is more likely that, as the communists prepared to take power in a much wider territory, they had second thoughts about the rhetoric that surrounded the latinization movement; in order to obtain the maximum popular support, they withdrew support from a movement that deeply offended many supporters of the traditional writing system.


Sin Wenz was designed so that every dialect had its own form of the alphabet. The letters below represent only one of the thirteen possible schemes present, the below form being that for .

Much of Sin Wenz is similar to Pinyin in its orthography. However, palatal affricates are written with the same letters as velar stops, so Beijing is written as "Beiging" in Sin Wenz. Other differences include the usage of "x" for both the sounds and , so the characters 画 and 下 are written as "xua" and "xia".


:Sin Wenz differs from Pinyin
:[IPA pronunciation]

Sin Wenz exhibits some interchangeability between alveolo-palatal g, k, x with z, c, s. For example, 新 can be written as ''xin'' or ''sin'' in Sin Wenz.


:Sin Wenz differs from Pinyin
:[IPA pronunciation]
1"e" and "ye" is written as "o" and "yo" after initials g, k and x. Examples: gogo , xyosheng

2The word 有 is written as "iou". Other words with the same sound is written as "iu". This is because the word 有 occurs frequently in Chinese.

3Standalone "ung" is written as "weng".

4What is written as "i" after zh, ch , sh, r, z, c and s in pinyin is not written in Sin Wenz.

As in pinyin, spacing in Sin Wenz is based on whole words, not single syllables. Except for "u", others syllables starting with u is always written with a "w" replacing the u. The syllable "u" is only preceded by a "w" when it occurs in the middle of a word. The same applies to syllables starting with i, where it is replaced, or in case of the syllable "i", preceded by a "j". Syllables starting with "y" is preceded by a "j" only in the middle of a word and when the preceding syllable ends with an "n" or "g". These are unlike pinyin, which always uses "w" and "y" regardless of the positions of the syllables. As in pinyin, the apostrophe is used before a, o, and e to separate syllables in a word where ambiguity could arise.

Because Sin Wenz is written without indicating tones, ambiguity could arise with certain words with the same sound but different tones. In order to circumvent this problem, Sin Wenz defined a list of exceptions. For example, 买 and 卖 is of the same sound but different tones. The former is written as ''maai'' and the latter is written as ''mai'' in Sin Wenz. In addition, Sin Wenz also calls for the use of the Chinese Postal Map Romanization when writing place names in China.

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