Barnett–Chao

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The Barnett–Chao (abbreviated here as B–C) system of romanization for writing Cantonese is based on the principles of the Gwoyeu Romatzyh system (GR) for writing Mandarin Chinese in the Latin alphabet. The Barnett–Chao system has had a limited following and appears almost exclusively in Y.R. Chao's Cantonese Primer. There are two reasons for its lack of widespread adoption despite the inherent benefits of tonal spelling. Firstly, requires a large number of roman letters to represent each toned syllable. Secondly, like GR, it uses a complex system for representing tone that makes the system difficult to learn and obscures the basic relationship between spelling and tone.

Description[edit]

Like GR spelling, B–C spelling uses contrasting unvoiced/voiced pairs of consonants to represent aspirated and unaspirated sounds. B–C also uses single versus double vowels letters to represent certain short + high versus long + low final vowels even in open syllables where the contrast does not exist: buk, buut, baa, and different letters to represent the contrast in other cases: sek, sin. Some vowels are only long and do not use doubling to represent length: ea, o, y.

The Cantonese high and low pitch registers are indicated by inserting -h- or -r- between the initial and final: bhat, brat. Medium pitch register has no insert, and is considered the basic form: baa.

Basic forms[edit]

The following two tables list the B–C spellings of initials and finals with their corresponding IPA values.

Initials[edit]

b
[p]
p
[pʰ]
m
[m]
f
[f]
d
[t]
t
[tʰ]
n
[n]
l
[l]
g
[k]
k
[kʰ]
ng
[ŋ]
x
[h]
q
[ʔ]
z
[ts]
c
[tsʰ]
s
[s]
 
gw
[kw]
kw
[kʰw]
j
[j]
w
[w]

Finals[edit]

aa
[a]
aai
[ai]
aau
[au]
aam
[am]
aan
[an]
aang
[aŋ]
aap
[ap]
aat
[at]
aak
[ak]
  ai
[ɐi]
au
[ɐu]
am
[ɐm]
an
[ɐn]
ang
[ɐŋ]
ap
[ɐp]
at
[ɐt]
ak
[ɐk]
ea
[ɛ]
ei
[ei]
      eang
[ɛŋ]
    eak
[ɛk]
i
[i]
  iu
[iu]
im
[im]
in
[in]
eng
[ɪŋ]
ip
[ip]
it
[it]
ek
[ɪk]
o
[ɔ]
oi
[ɔi]
ou
[ou]
  on
[ɔn]
ong
[ɔŋ]
  ot
[ɔt]
ok
[ɔk]
uu
[u]
uui
[ui]
    uun
[un]
ung
[ʊŋ]
  uut
[ut]
uk
[ʊk]
eo
[œ]
  eoi
[ɵy]
  eon
[ɵn]
eong
[œŋ]
  eot
[ɵt]
eok
[œk]
y
[y]
      yn
[yn]
    yt
[yt]
 
      m
[m̩]
  ng
[ŋ̩]
     

Tones[edit]

There are nine normal tones in six distinct tone contours and two modified tones in Cantonese.

B–C spelling represents the normal tones using the letters h and r before and after the main vowel of the final as well as spelling changes of certain finals as described below.

Before the vowel of the final, h indicates that the start of the tone is high; after the vowel of the final, h indicates that the tone falls, however a falling contour is also indicated by a change in spelling in some finals: Vi > Vy, Vu > Vw, ng > nq, n > nn, m > mm for example saan "disperse" and shaann "mountain", sou "number" and show "whiskers", sai "small" and shay "west".

Before the vowel of the final, r indicates that the start of the tone is low; after the vowel of the final, r indicates that the tone rises, however a rising contour is also indicated by a change in spelling in some finals: Vi > Ve, Vu > Vo for example sai "small" and sae "wash", sou "number" and soo "count".

The modified tones representing high-flat (高平) and modified mid-rising (高升) when the original tone is not mid-rising are indicated by adding an 'x or v after the end of the syllable. High-register syllables that end in a stop (entering tone) are already considered high-flat and cannot take x.

No. Description B–C examples
1 high-falling shih shinn
2 mid-rising sir sirn
3 mid-flat si sin
4 low-falling srih srinn
5 low-rising srir srirn
6 low-flat sri srin
7 high-entering shek
8 mid-entering sit
9 low-entering srek
10 high-flat shihx shinnx
11 mid-rising modified shihv shinnv

Examples[edit]

Traditional Simplified Yale Romanization with tone marks Barnett–Chao Romanization
廣州話 广州话 gwóng jàu wá Gworngzhawwraav
粵語 粤语 yuht yúh jrytjryr
你好 你好 néih hóu nree xoo

References[edit]

  • Chao, Yuen Ren, Cantonese Primer, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1947.