Chinese Pinyin Alphabet


The Chinese alphabet does not exist as such. Chinese people write their language using Hieroglyphs. However, we can use Pinyin to talk about the Chinese alphabet. Pinyin is a system of hieroglyphic writing with the use of the extended Latin alphabet.

At first, Chinese writing was pictographic, like many other systems. That is, the words were depicted in simple drawings. Over time, the language became more complicated, and the drawings were simplified and gradually turned into what we can see today. Each symbol has a semantic meaning. Most words consist of two hieroglyphs, and some of one. Of course, such a writing system cannot be called an alphabet. An alphabet is supposed to be a set of signs (letters) that represent sounds or syllables. The letters themselves don't convey a meaning.

Pinyin was officially adopted in 1958 at the fifth session of the National People's Congress. Since 1979, it has been used everywhere as a Latin transcription of names and titles from the PRC. In 1982, this system was approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This alphabet is taught in Chinese schools. Learning Pinyin is important for foreign students in China, as it is very difficult to learn the language without it.

There are other phonetic writing systems that are used to convey the pronunciation of Chinese words. Before Pinyin, Wade—Giles and  Bopomofo 3105–312D transcriptions were used. Also, you can use the  International Phonetic Alphabet 0070–02AF . However, it's less convenient.

Pinyin includes all letters of the Latin alphabet except V, which is replaced by Ü. Besides, it actively uses diacritics. Chinese is tonal, meaning the same vowels can be pronounced differently. Tones are indicated by superscript characters.

The symbols with question marks are actually digraphs CH, SH, ZH. They are included in the alphabet as letters, but are not encoded in Unicode as a single character.