Choosing a Notation for Mandarin Romanization

Published on March 12, 2020
Categories: chinese, computing and linguistics

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Decision: Standardize on gei3-type citations for source material. Can use scripts in the build process to automate find-replace for publishing. I don't care about academic or legal standards right now, and any Chinese linguistics writing I do will probably not be for laymen.

Here is the case for using gei3 instead of standard Pinyin gěi.


  • only need ASCII to search (except for lü, but that can be typed lv), which is helpful for build-process mechanisms and scripts like spell check, as well as fewer edge cases for implementation of projects such as full-text search
  • if I ever switch to doing it the other way, I can more easily replace text like gei3 into gěi than the other way around (and the procedure for determining which letter takes the tone accent mark is a straightforward algorithm1).


  • not standard in the academic literature or in the private sector
  • not part of PRC or Taiwan standards for Romanization (though numbers do show up in the Jyutping, the most widely-used standard for Cantonese: for example, 粤拼 "Jyutping" itself is Romanized in Jyutping as Jyut6ping3)
  1. Roughly: letter which comes first alphabetically gets the tone mark, except for a few regular exceptions, such as the vowel combo in "xiōng".

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