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The Yale romanizations are four systems created at Yale University for romanizing the four East Asian languages of Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Japanese. The Yale romanization for Mandarin was created during World War II for use by United States military personnel, while the Yale romanization systems for the other three languages were created later, in the 1960s and 1970s.
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Mandarin Yale was developed in 1943 by the Yale sinologist George Kennedy to help prepare American soldiers to communicate with their Chinese allies on the battlefield. Rather than try to teach recruits to interpret the standard romanization of the time, the Wade-Giles system, a new system was invented that utilized the decoding skills that recruits would already know from having learned to read English, i.e. it used English spelling conventions to represent Chinese sounds.
It avoided the main problems that the Wade-Giles system presented to the uninitiated student or news announcer trying to get somebody's name right in a public forum, because it did not use the "rough breathing (aspiration) mark" (which looks like an apostrophe) to distinguish between sounds like jee and chee. In Wade-Giles the first of those would be written chi and the second would be written ch'i. In the Yale romanization they were written ji and chi.
The Yale system also avoids the difficulties faced by the beginner trying to read pinyin romanization, which uses certain Roman letters and combinations of letters in such a way that they no longer carry their expected values. For instance, q in pinyin is pronounced something like the ch in chicken and is written as ch in Yale Romanization. Xi in pinyin is pronounced something like the sh in sheep, but in Yale it is written as syi. Zhi in pinyin sounds something like the ger in gerbil, and is written as jr in Yale romanization. For example: in Wade-Giles, "knowledge" (知識) is chih-shih; in pinyin, zhishi; but in Yale romanization it is written jr-shr—only the last will elicit a near-correct pronunciation from an unprepared English speaker.
The tone markings from Yale romanization were adopted for pinyin.
Mandarin Yale was widely used in Western textbooks until the late 1970s; in fact, during the height of the Cold War, preferring the "communist" pinyin system over Yale romanization was something of a political statement. The situation was reversed once the relations between the People's Republic of China and the West had improved. Communist China (PRC) became a member of the United Nations in 1971 by replacing Nationalist China (ROC). By 1979, much of the world adopted pinyin as the standard romanization for Chinese geographical names. In 1982, pinyin became an ISO standard. Interest in Mandarin Yale declined rapidly thereafter.
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Unlike the Mandarin Yale romanization, Cantonese Yale is still widely used in books and dictionaries for Cantonese, especially for foreign learners. Developed by Parker Po-fei Huang and Gerald P. Kok and published in 1970, it shares some similarities with Hanyu Pinyin in that unvoiced, unaspirated consonants are represented by letters traditionally used in English and most other European languages to represent voiced sounds. For example, [p] is represented as b in Yale, whereas its aspirated counterpart, [pʰ] is represented as p.
Because of this and other factors, Yale romanization is usually held to be easy for American English speakers to pronounce without much training. In Hong Kong, more people use Cantonese Pinyin and Jyutping, as these systems are more localized to Hong Kong people. Foreign students of Cantonese who attend Hong Kong University use Sidney Lau's spelling of Cantonese from his three-volume textbooks. Foreign students of Cantonese who attend Chinese University of Hong Kong's New-Asia Yale-in-China Chinese Language Center are taught to use the Yale spelling of Cantonese and eventually learn to read those traditional English voiced consonants in a new unvoiced Cantonese way subconsciously, without realizing they are doing so or without usually being aware of the linguistic difference.
- The finals m and ng can only be used as standalone nasal syllables.
- Tones can also be written using the tone number instead of the tone mark and h.
- Traditional Chinese linguistics treats the tones in syllables ending with a stop consonant as separate "entering tones". Cantonese Yale follows modern linguistic conventions in treating these the same as tones 1, 3 and 6, respectively.
|Traditional||Simplified||Romanization using Tone Marks||Romanization using Numbers|
|你好||你好||Néih hóu||Nei5 hou2|
Korean Yale was developed by Samuel Elmo Martin and his colleagues at Yale University about half a decade after McCune-Reischauer. It is the standard romanization of the Korean language in linguistics.
The Yale system places primary emphasis on showing a word's morphophonemic structure. This distinguishes it from the other two widely used systems for romanizing Korean, the Revised Romanization of Korean (RR) and McCune-Reischauer. These two usually provide the pronunciation for an entire word, but the morphophonemic elements accounting for that pronunciation often cannot be recovered from the romanizations, which makes them ill-suited for linguistic use. In terms of morphophonemic content, the Yale system's approach can be compared to a North Korean orthography known as Chosŏnŏ sin ch'ŏlchapŏp (Hanja: 朝鮮語新綴字法).
The Yale system tries to use a single consistent spelling for each morphophonemic element irrespective of its context. But Yale and Hangul differ in how back vowels are handled.
Yale may be used for both modern Korean and Middle Korean. There are separate rules for Middle Korean. Martin's 1992 Reference Grammar of Korean uses italics for Middle Korean as well as other texts predating the 1933 abandonment of arae a, whereas it shows current language in boldface.
Yale writes the basic vowels as a, e, o, and u. The vowels that are written to the right in Hangul (ㅏ, ㅓ) are written as a or e, and the vowels that are written below (ㅗ,ㅜ,ㆍ, ㅡ) are o or u. Yale indicates fronting of a vowel, written in Hangul as an additional final stroke ㅣ, by a final -y. Palatalization is shown by a medial -y-. Although Hangul treats the rounded back vowels (ㅜ, ㅗ) of Middle Korean as simple vowels, the Yale system writes them as a basic vowel (ㅡ, ㆍ) combined with a medial -w-.
*Since modern standard Korean has lost the vowel ㆍ (arae a), the medial w, used to distinguish it from ㅗwo in Middle Korean, can be omitted. Thus it is important to consider the time period in question when interpreting Yale romanization.
**As this w isn't phonemically distinctive after labial consonants in modern Korean, the Yale system omits it in that context, merging hangul ㅜ (RR u) and ㅡ (RR eu). Thus, there is not a one-to-one correspondence in the spelling of back vowels.
Yale uses unvoiced consonant letters to write the modern Korean consonants. The Middle Korean letter ㅿ (bansiot) is written as z. Tense consonants and consonant clusters are transcribed according to the Hangul spelling. Aspirated consonants are written as if they were clusters ending in h.
Other symbols 
The letter q indicates reinforcement which is not shown in hangul spelling:
- 할 일 halq il /hallil/
- 할 것 halq kes /halkket/
- 글자 kulqca /kulcca/
A period indicates the orthographic syllable boundary in cases of letter combinations that would otherwise be ambiguous. It is also used for other purposes such as to indicate sound change:
- 늙은 nulk.un “old”
- 같이 kath.i /kachi/ “together”; “like”, “as” etc.
A macron over a vowel letter indicate that in old or dialectal language, this vowel is pronounced long:
- 말 māl “word(s)”
- 말 mal “horse(s)”
Accents marks are used instead of or in addition to the macron when recording dialects, such as Gyeongsang or Hamgyeong, which have retained tones. Note: Vowel length (or pitch, depending on the dialect) as a distinctive feature seems to have disappeared at least among younger speakers of the Seoul dialect sometime in the late 20th century.
A superscript letter indicates consonants that have disappeared from a word's South Korean orthography and standard pronunciation. For example, the South Korean orthographic syllable 영 (RR yeong) is romanized as follows:
- yeng where no initial consonant has been dropped.
Example: 영어 (英語) yenge
- lyeng where an initial l (ㄹ) has been dropped or changed to n (ㄴ) in the South Korean standard language.
Examples: 영[=령]도 (領導) lyengto; 노[=로]무현 (盧武鉉) lNo Muhyen
- ⁿyeng where an initial n (ㄴ) has been dropped in the South Korean standard language.
Example: 영[=녕]변 (寧邊) ⁿYengpyen
The indication of vowel length or pitch and disappeared consonants often make it easier to predict how a word is pronounced in Korean dialects when given its Yale romanization compared to its South Korean hangul spelling.
High levels of analysis 
At higher levels of morphological abstraction, superscript and subscript vowel symbols joined by a slash may be used to indicate alternations due to vowel harmony. If used for modern day language, this just means the symbol e/a, though Middle Korean also had the vowel alteration u/o.
- 나+ㅣ = 내 na 'y = nay “my”
- 별+으로 = 별로 pel 'lo = pel lo “especially”
Special letters may be used to indicate final consonants in stem changing verbs. In this example, T stands in for the alternation between ㄷ and ㄹ
- 걷다 keTda “to walk” (dictionary citation form)
- 걸어요 keTe/a yo “he walks” (conjugated form)
See also 
- Wiedenhof, Jeroen (Leiden University) (2004). "Purpose and effect in the transcription of Mandarin". Proceedings of the International Conference on Chinese Studies 2004 (漢學研究國際學術研討會論文集). National Yunlin University of Science and Technology. pp. 387–402. ISBN 9860040117. Archived from the original on 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
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- Wiedenhof, p. 390 "In the Cold War era, the use of this system outside China was typically regarded as a political statement, or a deliberate identification with the Chinese communist regime."
- David Rossiter; Gibson Lam, Vivying Cheng (2005). "The Gong System: Web-Based Learning for Multiple Languages, with Special Support for the Yale Representation of Cantonese". Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Advances in Web-Based Learning — ICWL 2005. Springer Verlag. pp. 209–220. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- Ng Lam & Chik 2000: 515. "Appendix 3: Tones. The student of Cantonese will be well aware of the importance of tones in conveying meaning. Basically, there are seven tones which, in the Yale system, are represented by the use of diacritics and by the insertion of h for ..."
- Gwaan 2000: 7. "Basically, there are seven tones which, in the Yale system, are represented by the use of diacritics and by the insertion of h for the three low tones. The following chart will illustrate the seven tones: 3 Mid Level, 1 High Level, 5 Low Faliing, 6 Low Level..."
- Modern Standard Cantonese has only six tones, with the high-flat and high-falling tones having merged. Therefore, they are represented with the same tone number.
Further reading 
- Gwaan, Choi-wa (關彩華) (2000). English-Cantonese Dictionary - 英粤字典: Cantonese in Yale Romanization (2nd ed.). Chinese University Press. ISBN 962-201-970-6.
- Matthews, Stephen & Yip, Virginia (1994). Cantonese. A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-08945-X.
- Martin, Samuel E. (1992). "Yale Romanization". A Reference Grammar of Korean (1st ed.). Rutland and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 8 ff. ISBN 0-8048-1887-8.
- Ng Lam, Sim-yuk & Chik, Hon-man (2000). Chinese-English Dictionary 漢英小字典: Cantonese in Yale Romanization, Mandarin in Pinyin. Chinese University Press. ISBN 962-201-922-6.
- Comparison chart of Yale Romanization for Mandarin with Hanyu Pinyin and Zhuyin Fuhao
- Comparison chart of Romanization for Cantonese with Yale, S. Lau, Guangdong, Toho and LSHK (uses Shift JIS encoding)
- MDBG free online Chinese-English dictionary (supports Cantonese Yale romanization)
- Cukda Cantonese IME