Re: Representation of neutral tone in pinyin and bopomofo

From: Charlie Ruland ☘ <>
Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2013 19:50:19 +0100

Stephan Stiller wrote:
> [...]
> II.
>> [Is it correct that:] in pinyin, the neutral tone is typically not
>> marked, but it may be marked. When that's the case, U+02D9 ˙ DOT
>> ABOVE is used.
> 1. No. In pinyin the neutral tone has traditionally never been marked
> (read: absence of a tone mark means "neutral tone" unless it's clear
> you're dealing with toneless pinyin), except I know that at least 现代
> 汉语词典 (Xiàndài Hànyǔ Cídiǎn) has been using an obligatory dot
> before the syllable for all neutral tones. The reason seems to be to
> draw more visual attention to them and to make possible a notation for
> an optional neutral tone, like Charlie Ruland pointed out (but more on
> that below).

I remember seeing the neutral tone marked with a dot above in pictures
from the experimental early days of pīnyīn school teaching, in now
exotic styles where the letters /ĉ, ŝ, ẑ, ŋ/ were used as well. The
drawback is that when the main vowel is /i/ (i.e. in the four rimes /-i,
-in, -ing//, -ui/) this practice leads to a situation where the intended
tone mark tends to become invisible /— //i/ vs. /i̇/ — and only works if
the dot used for marking the neutral tone is much larger than the
regular dot above /i/. (An alternative would be to do it “the Turkish
way” and use undotted /ı/ instead of /i/, but this wasn’t the case. And
there is no problem when only capital letters are used, of course.)

> [...]
> 4. Finally, some comments about what Charlie wrote:
>> Rule 7.3 of GB/T 16159-2012
>> <> stipulates
>> that a preceding dot (probably U+00B7 or U+2022) be used to indicate
>> neutral tone in dictionaries, as had been common practice among many
>> dictionary makers anyway.
> 4.1. This is not correct. The text states that dictionary-like
> materials /may/ (可) mark a neutral tone as such, but the implication
> is that they don't have to. The same document contains on all
> preceding pages only unmarked neutral tones. This has always been the
> default, and I would assume that it will remain so.

Yes, using a preceding dot to indicate neutral tone is now sanctioned
but by no means obligatory. Sorry for my misleading wording.

> [...]

Charlie ☘
Received on Fri Nov 22 2013 - 12:52:18 CST

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