Public Review Issue #31: Cantonese Romanization

2004-03-24 (closes 2004-06-08)

The study of Cantonese as a language is hampered by a surprising number of romanization schemes in active use. Among the materials consulted for use in the Unihan database, there are seven distinct romanizations used, none of which is the same as the one used in the Unihan database itself. We feel that there is no good reason for Unicode to continue to contribute to this problem, and that we should therefore adopt a standard romanization for use throughout the Unihan database. (In practice, this means that only the current kCantonese field will change. The new kCheungBauer field will use the new romanization when it is added.)

While the Yale romanization (from which our romanization is derived) continues in popularity, we feel that it would be better to adopt the new jyutping romanization developed by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong. Although relatively young, this romanization has proven popular with Cantonese linguists. It uses same numbers, 1 through 6, for the tones that Unihan currently uses and is otherwise very similar to the Yale romanization on which Unihan's romanization is based. A table comparing the two is found below.

Briefly, however, jyutping uses c-, j-, and z- for initials where Yale has ch-, y-, and j-, respectively. Jyutping always uses -aa- for a long a, where Yale uses -aa- when it is followed by a consonant and -a otherwise. Jyutping uses -oe- for the vowel Yale represents with -eu-. Jyutping can therefore distinguish the vowels -oe- and -eu-, whereas Yale does not.


Yale Jyutping
b b
p p
m m
f f
d d
t t
l l
g g
k k
h h
j z
ch c
s s
y j
w w
gw gw
kw kw


Yale Jyutping
a aa
aai aai
aau aau
aam aam
aap aan
aang aang
aap aap
aat aat
aak aak

Yale Jyutping
ai ai
au au
am am
an an
ang ang
ap ap
at at
ak ak

Yale Jyutping
o o
oi oi
ou ou
on on
ong ong
ot ot
ok ok

Yale Jyutping
e e
ei ei
eng eng
ek ek

Yale Jyutping
i i
iu iu
im im
in in
ing ing
ip ip
it it
ik ik

Yale Jyutping
eu oe
eui eoi
eun eon
eung oeng
eut eot
euk oek

Yale Jyutping
u u
ui ui
un un
ung ung
ut ut
uk uk

Yale Jyutping
yu yu
yun yun
yut yut

Yale Jyutping
m m
ng ng