Since the original Chinese characters were pictographs, they lack sound-to-script correspondence. In earlier times, different phonetic pronunciation systems were used to mark the Chinese characters. One of system is called Zhiyin, which provides the pronunciation of a Chinese character by citing another character with the same pronunciation. Fanqie is another method which indicates the pronunciation of a new Chinese character by using two other known Chinese characters, the first having the same initial consonant as the given character and the second having the same vowel and tone of the given Chinese character. Zhuyin fuhao (national phonetic alphabet) is a set of symbols (simplified classical Chinese characters) used to transcribe the pronunciation of characters. It was used in the mainland before the 1950s and is still being used in China's Taiwan. Hanyu pinyin (Chinese Phonetic Alphabet, or Pinyin for short) is the phonetic system adopted by the People's Republic of China since 1950s. In order to learn standard Chinese, one must learn its phonetic system first.
Pinyin is the most common standard for representing mandarin in the Latin alphabet. The correspondence between letter and sound does not follow any single other language, but do not depart any more from the norms of the Latin alphabet than many European languages. For example, the aspiration distinction between b, d, g and p, t, k is similar to English, but not to French. Z and c also have that distinction, but their pronunciations follow languages such as German, Italian, and Polish which do not. From s, z, c come the digraphs sh, zh, ch by analogy with English sh, ch; although this introduces the novel combination zh, it is internally consistent in how the two series are related, and represents the fact that many Chinese pronounce sh, zh, ch as s, z, c. In the x, j, q series, x rather resembles its pronunciation in Catalan, though q is more novel.
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very useful, thank you.
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