Yesterday’s post got me thinking further about importing Mandarin/ Standard Chinese words into Diinlang. The main problem is that many words are rendered the same in English, the only distinction being the tone marker. On the plus side, the potential exists for a consistent system to derive a word dependent on the tone value assigned. For example, for the word rendered in pinyin as “ma” the first tone, meaning “mother” would be “ma”, the second, for “hemp” would be “mab”, the third for “horse” would be “mak” and so on. In practice some of these words and meanings already have other assignments, but that is an example of how the mechanic might work.
The following is a suggestion to get the ball rolling. The actual system is undoubtedly better managed by someone with a better knowledge of Standard Chinese than my own.
Most Chinese words are composed of an initial and a final. The initials are all consonants. Initials are combinations of vowels or semi-vowels and some may end in the codas -n, -ng or more rarely, -r/-er. In some words there is a medial between the initial and final, written in Pinyin as i-, u- or ü- but often having a y-, w- or yu- sound.
The standard system for converting Chinese into the Roman alphabet is Pinyin, which unfortunately for our purposes is not phonetic. Some of the Roman letters it uses it assigns very divergent phonemes to. More useful for our purposes is Bopomofo (Zhuyin). Interesting is that the symbol that Bopomofo uses for “en” Pinyin changes to “-in” if there is a “y-” medial before it. Similarly “eng” becomes “ing” or “ong” in Pinyin depending on medial. Just to complicate matters, the actually pronounciation of “ong” is apparently closer to “uung”.
Bopomofo has seventeen symbols for finals. Pinyin renders these as the following. I have put more phonetic renditions of some words in green. Some of these finals may be preceded by medials, which would change the Pinyin spelling:
i, yi, wu, yu, a, o, e(uh), ye, ai(iy), ei(ay), ao(ou), ou(oh), an, en, ang, eng, er
A word/ syllable in Bopomofo is therefore up to three characters plus a tone marker or number. To use this for creating Diinlang words a consistent protocol for transcribing initials needs to be adopted. -n and -ng endings work well for Diinlang, therefore any modification of the word for tone should precede nasal codas. How to handle “en” and “eng” also needs to be considered. Should these become “in” and “ing” when preceded by a “y”?
Standard Chinese has four tones and a neutral tone. If the number one tone is transcribed directly from Bopofomo this suggests we need four modifier letters that can be placed at the end of a final and before a nasal coda. Possible letters are b, l, k, r, s.