Latinxua Sin Wenz

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Latinxua Sin Wenz (Chinese: 拉丁化新文字; pinyin: Lādīnghuà Xīn Wénzì; lit. 'Latinized New Script'; also known as Sin Wenz "New Script", Zhungguo Latinxua Sin Wenz "China Latinized New Script", Latinxua "Latinization") is a historical set of romanizations for Chinese languages, although references to Sin Wenz usually refer to Beifangxua Latinxua Sin Wenz, which was designed for Mandarin Chinese. Distinctively, Sin Wenz does not indicate tones, under the premise that the proper tones could be understood from context.

Latinxua is historically notable as being the first romanization system used in place of Chinese characters by native Chinese speakers. It was originally developed by groups of Chinese and Russian scholars in the Soviet Union and used by Chinese expatriates there until the majority of them left Soviet Union. Later, it was revived for some time in Northern China where it was used in over 300 publications before its usage was ended by the People's Republic of China.

History and development[edit]

The work towards constructing the Beifangxua Latinxua Sin Wenz (北方話拉丁化新文字) system began in Moscow as early as 1928 when the Soviet Scientific Research Institute on China sought to create a means through which the large Chinese population living in the far eastern region of the USSR could be made literate,[1] facilitating their further education.

This was significantly different from all other romanization schemes in that, from the very outset, it was intended that the Latinxua Sin Wenz system, once established, would supersede the Chinese characters.[2] They decided to use the Latin alphabet because they thought that it would serve their purpose better than Cyrillic.[3] Unlike Gwoyeu Romatzyh, with its complex method of indicating tones, Latinxua Sin Wenz system does not indicate tones at all.

The eminent Moscow-based Chinese scholar Qu Qiubai (1899–1935) and the Russian linguist Kolokolov V.S. (1896–1979) devised a prototype romanization system in 1929.

In 1931 a coordinated effort between the Soviet sinologists Alekseyev V.M., Dragunov A.A. and Shprintsin A. G., and the Moscow-based Chinese scholars Qu Qiubai, Wu Yuzhang, Lin Boqu, Xiao San, Wang Xiangbao, and Xu Teli established the Latinxua Sin Wenz system.[4] The system was supported by a number of Chinese intellectuals such as Guo Moruo and Lu Xun, and trials were conducted amongst 100,000 Chinese immigrant workers for about four years[5] and later, in 1940–1942, in the communist-controlled Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region of China.[6] In November 1949, the railways in China's north-east adopted the Latinxua Sin Wenz system for all their telecommunications.[7]

In 1940, several thousand members attended a Border Region Sin Wenz Society convention. Mao Zedong and Zhu De, head of the army, both contributed their calligraphy (in characters) for the masthead of the Sin Wenz Society's new journal. Outside the CCP, other prominent supporters included Sun Yat-sen's son, Sun Fo; Cai Yuanpei, the country's most prestigious educator; Tao Xingzhi, a leading educational reformer; and Lu Xun. Over thirty journals soon appeared written in Sin Wenz, plus large numbers of translations, biographies (including Lincoln, Franklin, Edison, Ford, and Charlie Chaplin), some contemporary Chinese literature, and a spectrum of textbooks. In 1940, the movement reached an apex when Mao's Border Region Government declared that the Sin Wenz had the same legal status as traditional characters in government and public documents. Many educators and political leaders looked forward to the day when they would be universally accepted and completely replace Chinese characters. Opposition arose, however, because the system was less well adapted to writing regional languages, and therefore would require learning Mandarin. Sin Wenz fell into relative disuse during the following years.[8]

An issue of Dazhung Bao (大衆報; Dàzhòng Bào), a Mandarin–Shanghainese newspaper published in Latinxua in 1932.
The subtitle of Dhazung Bao is in a Shanghainese adaptation of Sin Wenz, where dh represents the voiced alveolar plosive /d/, and the zh initial does not exist.
Sheqben is the Shanghainese romanization of 日本 "Japan", where sh represents the voiced alveolar fricative /z/, and q represents the glottal stop /ʔ/.
The pronunciation Lusin instead of *Lusyn (Lu Xun) is an example of Sin Wenz not following Beijing pronunciation.

For a time, the system was very important in spreading literacy in Northern China; and more than 300 publications totaling half a million issues appeared in Latinxua Sin Wenz.[2] However:

In 1944 the latinization movement was officially curtailed in the communist-controlled areas [of China] on the pretext that there were insufficient trained cadres capable of teaching the system. It is more likely that, as the communists prepared to take power in a much wider territory, they had second thoughts about the rhetoric that surrounded the latinization movement; in order to obtain the maximum popular support, they withdrew support from a movement that deeply offended many supporters of the traditional writing system.[9]


Sin Wenz was designed so that every dialect had its own form of the alphabet. The letters below represent only one of the thirteen possible schemes present, the below form being Beifangxua Latinxua Sin Wenz: that for Northern Mandarin.[10]

Much of Beifangxua Latinxua Sin Wenz is similar to Pinyin in its orthography. However, it is based upon the pronunciation outlined by the Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation, rather than upon the Beijing pronunciation (as with Hanyu Pinyin), hence the distinction between sounds such as palatalized alveolars (zi–ci–si) and palatalized velars (gi–ki–xi), or spellings such as yo and ung instead of ye or eng.[11] Thus, Beijing is written as Beiging and Tianjin as Tianzin in Sin Wenz, and the characters (pinyin: huà) and (pinyin: xià) are written as xua and xia, with the same initial character.[12] Scuanxua Ladinxua Sin Wenz, the system for Sichuanese Mandarin, represents alveolopalatals with g, k, x followed by medial i.


Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Retroflex Alveolo-palatal Velar
Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiced Voiceless Voiceless
Nasal m [m]
ㄇ m
n [n]
ㄋ n
Plosive Unaspirated b [p]
ㄅ b
d [t]
ㄉ d
g [k]
ㄍ g
Aspirated p [pʰ]
ㄆ p
t [tʰ]
ㄊ t
k [kʰ]
ㄎ k
Affricate Unaspirated z [ʦ]
ㄗ z
zh [ʈʂ]
ㄓ zh
gi [ʨ]
ㄐ j
Aspirated c [ʦʰ]
ㄘ c
ch [ʈʂʰ]
ㄔ ch
ki [ʨʰ]
ㄑ q
Fricative f [f]
ㄈ f
s [s]
ㄙ s
sh [ʂ]
ㄕ sh
rh [ʐ]
ㄖ r
xi [ɕ]
ㄒ x
x [x]
ㄏ h
Liquid l [l]
ㄌ l


Nucleus a ə
Coda i u n ŋ i u n ŋ ɻ
Medial a [a]
ㄚ a
ai [ai̯]
ㄞ ai
ao [au̯]
ㄠ ao
an [an]
ㄢ an
ang/ong [aŋ]
ㄤ ang
ㄜ e
ei [ei̯]
ㄟ ei
ou [ou̯]
ㄡ ou
en [ən]
ㄣ en
eng [əŋ]
ㄥ eng
r [aɚ̯]
ㄦ er
ㄭ (-i)
i ia [ja]
ㄧㄚ ia
iao [jau̯]
ㄧㄠ iao
ian [jɛn]
ㄧㄢ ian
iang [jaŋ]
ㄧㄤ iang
ie [je]
ㄧㄝ ie
iou, iu [jou̯]
ㄧㄡ iu
in [in]
ㄧㄣ in
ing [iŋ]
ㄧㄥ ing
i [i]
ㄧ i
u ua [wa]
ㄨㄚ ua
uai [wai̯]
ㄨㄞ uai
uan [wan]
ㄨㄢ uan
uang [waŋ]
ㄨㄤ uang
uo [wo]
ㄨㄛ uo
ㄨㄟ ui
ㄨㄣ un
ㄨㄥ ong
u [u]
ㄨ u
y yan [ɥɛn]
ㄩㄢ üan
[ɥe] (üe)
yn [yn]
ㄩㄣ (ün)
yng [jʊŋ]
ㄩㄥ iong
y [y]
ㄩ ü

1e and ye is written as o and yo after initials g, k and x. For example: gogo (Chinese: 哥哥; pinyin: gēge; lit. 'elder brother'), xyosheng (Chinese: 学生; pinyin: xuésheng; lit. 'student')
2Standalone ui, un and ung are written as wei, wen and weng respectively.
3What is written as i (IPA [ɨ]) after zh, ch, sh, r, z, c and s in pinyin is not written in Sin Wenz. This "null vowel" feature is identical to Zhuyin.

As in pinyin, spacing in Sin Wenz is based on whole words, not single syllables. Except for u, others syllables starting with u is always written with a w replacing the u. The syllable u is only preceded by a w when it occurs in the middle of a word. For syllables starting with i, the i is replaced by a j (in case of the syllables i, in and ing, preceded by a j) only in the middle of a word. Syllables starting with y is preceded by a j only when preceded by a consonant in the middle of a word. These are unlike pinyin, which always uses w and y regardless of the positions of the syllables. As in pinyin, the apostrophe (') is used before a, o, and e to separate syllables in a word where ambiguity could arise.

Irregular spellings[edit]

Because Sin Wenz is written without indicating tones, ambiguity could arise with certain words with the same sound but different tones. In order to circumvent this problem, Sin Wenz defined a list of exceptions: "characters with fixed spellings" (Chinese: 定型字). For example, (pinyin: mǎi; lit. 'buy') and (pinyin: mài; lit. 'sell') are of the same sound but different tones. The former is written as maai and the latter is written as mai in Sin Wenz. The word (pinyin: yǒu; lit. 'to have') is also special; it is written as iou, as opposed to iu, which may be (pinyin: yòu; lit. 'once more').

Telegrams sent by workers for the railways in the northeast of China switched from Zhuyin to Sin Wenz in 1950, then from Sin Wenz to Hanyu Pinyin in 1958;[13] the 5 irregular spellings of 买 maai, 试 shii, 板 baan, 不 bu, and 李 lii, in use during the Hanyu Pinyin period, were inherited from Sin Wenz.[14]

In addition, Sin Wenz also calls for the use of the postal romanization when writing place names in China, as well as preservation of foreign spellings (hence Latinxua rather than *Ladingxua).


Giefang RhbaoJiefang Daily (pinyin: Jiěfàng Rìbào).
  1. ^ Principally the Chinese immigrant workers in Vladivostok and Khabarovsk.
  2. ^ a b Chen (1999), p.186.
  3. ^ Hsia (1956), pp. 109–110.
  4. ^ V. M. Alekseev (1932). Kitayskaya ieroglificheskaya pis'mennost' i ee latinizatsiya (The Chinese character script and its latinization) (in Russian). Leningrad.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ The "Soviet experiment with latinized Chinese came to an end [in 1936]" when most of the Chinese immigrant workers were repatriated to China (Norman, 1988, p. 261). DeFrancis (1950) reports that "despite the end of Latinxua in the U.S.S.R. it is the opinion of the Soviet scholars who worked on the system that it was an unqualified success" (p. 108).
  6. ^ Milsky (1973), p. 99; Chen (1999), p. 184; Hsia (1956), p. 110.
  7. ^ Milsky (1973), p. 103.
  8. ^ John DeFrancis, The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984), pp. 246-247.
  9. ^ Norman (1988), p.262.
  10. ^ Chen (1999) p. 185-186.
  11. ^ Ni (1949) p. 48.
  12. ^ Chen (1999) p. 185.
  13. ^ Zhou, Youguang (1962). "Tie lu dian bao ying yong Hanyu pin yin de shi di diao cha (shang)". Wen Zi Gai Ge (in Chinese).
  14. ^ Zhou, Youguang (1965). Dian bao pin yin hua (in Chinese). p. 50.


  • Norman, J., Chinese, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1988.
  • Ni, X. (Ni, H.), Latinxua Sin Wenz Gailun (Lading hua xin wen zi gai lun), Shdai Chubanshe (Shi dai chu ban she), 1949.
  • Milsky, C., "New Developments in Language Reform", The China Quarterly, No.53, (January–March 1973), pp. 98–133.
  • Hsia, T., China’s Language Reforms, Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, (New Haven), 1956.
  • Chen, P., "Phonetization of Chinese", pp. 164–190 in Chen, P., Modern Chinese: History and Sociolinguistics, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 1999.
  • Chao, Y.R., A Grammar of Spoken Chinese, University of California Press, (Berkeley), 1968.

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