names in Pinyin without tonal marks

Einar

New Member
I see more and more names on my Facebook that I recognise to be written in pinyin. I consider that, of course, a good thing when I'm trying to learn Mandarin. Here are some random people, and forgive me if these names are unique because I know no way of telling so:

Mengqiao Liu
Lin Yu Cheng
Jingyin Chang

What bothers me is that I still haven't seen anyone who write tone marks in their names.
So my question is: How do you pronounce it when you read it?
My guess would be that, take Mengiao, only has one pair of possible tones when it is used as a name.
Comparable to that you have to know that the stress should be on the second syllable when pronouncing the name "Elizabeth" in English.
 
  • xiaolijie

    Senior Member
    UK
    English (UK)
    Writing Chinese names in Pinyin is normally done for a special purpose, and not a general practice among Chinese people for Chinese people; so putting tone marks on the writing is an extra step that Chinese people wouldn't voluntarily do (Even if they want to, many wouldn't know how to & what software to use!)

    And no, tones on names are not comparable to stress on English names. As an English native speaker, you're supposed to know how to put a stress on an English name. Chinese people wouldn't know what tone to put on a Chinese name in pinyin, unless they already know what character is represented by the pinyin.

    So my question is: How do you pronounce it when you read it?
    You do it by guesswork, and the guesswork is not guaranteed to be correct. To make sure that it's correct, you'll have to find out how it's written in Chinese character, as mentioned above.
     

    Einar

    New Member
    Thank you for your reply.
    You do it by guesswork, and the guesswork is not guaranteed to be correct. To make sure that it's correct, you'll have to find out how it's written in Chinese character, as mentioned above.
    Since some Chinese characters have more prononciations, knowing the character doesn't really help you avoid the guesswork, does it?
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    Thank you for your reply.

    Since some Chinese characters have more prononciations, knowing the character doesn't really help you avoid the guesswork, does it?
    Actually, only a few characters have multiple prononciations, and they usually reflect different ideas. Not all ideas are good for a name.
    Like any other language, some Chinese characters are more common for names. That's how we do the guesswork. Just think about the common ones.
    After hearing a person's name, we often need to ask the person to specify which characters is he/she using.
    The real problem is one prononciation may reflect too many possible characters. That's why guessing is so hard.
     

    celine713

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you for your reply.

    Since some Chinese characters have more prononciations, knowing the character doesn't really help you avoid the guesswork, does it?
    Just like SuperXW said, most of the Chinese characters don't have more then one pronounciation, but many characters will share one pronounciation, that's why you have to see the character to find out the right pronounciation, as Chinese character is constructed by strokes to show image/symbol in meaning. hope that helps.
     

    ilikephoebe

    Senior Member
    Chinese Mandarin
    I think that's the authorities’ bad . If I were the one to set the rules, definitely Pinyin will add Tone Marks. Pinyin is designed to indicate how to read. Without that, it dosen't help anything. The situation misleads foreign leaners. That's why most foreigners pronounce a lot of Chinese characters only in 1st Tone. When you run into Chinese names without Tone Marks, there is no need to guess . Those are the ungiven information, right? Even Chinese people can't as well.
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    I think that's the authorities’ bad . If I were the one to set the rules, definitely Pinyin will add Tone Marks. Pinyin is designed to indicate how to read. Without that, it dosen't help anything. The situation misleads foreign leaners. That's why most foreigners pronounce a lot of Chinese characters only in 1st Tone. When you run into Chinese names without Tone Marks, there is no need to guess . Those are the ungiven information, right? Even Chinese people can't as well.
    Not exactly. 1. Even with the tone marks, you still need to guess which characters the name use. 王元 could be a man, 王媛 could be a woman. Even though they sound exactly the same.
    2. Pinyin with tone marks is hard to type and hard to learn to foreigners, just like that you don't know all the European letters and don't know how to type them.
    3. Even though you've shown a foreigner about the four tones, they can't just pronounce them naturally like we do...
     
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    indigoduck

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I think that's the authorities’ bad . If I were the one to set the rules, definitely Pinyin will add Tone Marks. Pinyin is designed to indicate how to read. Without that, it dosen't help anything. The situation misleads foreign leaners. That's why most foreigners pronounce a lot of Chinese characters only in 1st Tone. When you run into Chinese names without Tone Marks, there is no need to guess . Those are the ungiven information, right? Even Chinese people can't as well.
    As you've mentionned, pinyin is designed to indicate how to read. The materials you're looking for can be found in textbooks ("Pinyin will add Tone Marks") or beginner/intermediate level reading material for learners of pinyin chinese.

    However, once you know how to read, it's a waste of space.

    Imagine if every word/name in an English Language book were printed with its IPA international pronounciation guide all the time? I say English Language Book because sometimes i'll see names like "Straub Eisenhauer" or "Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky" in there.
     
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    ilikephoebe

    Senior Member
    Chinese Mandarin
    Not exactly. 1. Even with the tone marks, you still need to guess which characters the name use. 王元 could be a man, 王媛 could be a woman. Even though they sound exactly the same.
    2. Pinyin with tone marks is hard to type and hard to learn to foreigners, just like that you don't know all the European letters and don't know how to type them.
    3. Even though you've shown a foreigner about the four tones, they can't just pronounce them naturally like we do...
    You are quite right, but here is my thought.
    1.
    Einar's question is "How do you pronounce it when you read it?" It dosen't matter which character it is. As long as Pinyin is marked with tone, it can be read in a correct way.
    2.I am learning some languages in Europe. It's not difficult to learn how to type. I simply use the typing methods Microsoft Windows already provide. And I think it's not difficult to create a typing method for Pinyin with tone mark.
    3.I know it's difficult for foreigners to pronouce, but it's necessary for language learners. How can they master the language without pronouncing it correctly.
    In a word, if the current Pinyin can't give precise clue to help people to pronounce, it is a failure as a tool.
     

    chrilisa

    New Member
    English
    Mengqiao Liu
    Lin Yu Cheng
    Jingyin Chang
    -
    Liǘ 刘
    Chéng 陈
    it is not unique,you can call him Mr Liǘ 刘先生
    so you need to know "百家姓"
    it include most of the last name,then you will know how to read them ,even it do not have tone marked
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    Mengqiao Liu
    Lin Yu Cheng
    Jingyin Chang
    -
    Liǘ 刘
    Chéng 陈
    it is not unique,you can call him Mr Liǘ 刘先生
    so you need to know "百家姓"
    it include most of the last name,then you will know how to read them ,even it do not have tone marked
    Apart from the tones, I think the highlighted part yet shows other difficulties.
    Notice if you are using standardized Pinyin, that shouldn't be 陈 (chén), but more likely 程 (chéng).
    Due to the diversity of Chinese dialects, in fact, people in many provinces can't distinguish them well, let alone the foreigners.
    Yet there are other variations in romanisation due to geographical, historical and political reasons.
    Please refer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_Chinese_surnames

    So, when we see an oversea Chinese's name with spellings such as chang, yu... We really can't be sure about the character. There are many possibilities.
    Sometimes people adjust their surnames to the last as to suit the Western norm. Sometimes they don't. We would even mistake their family names when reading it. In your examples, I would suspect Lin Yu Cheng. Unlike the other two, this one separates every character, making it harder to guess which one is his/her family name.
    Some Hong Kong ladies added their husband's family name after marriage, following an English tradition...Try these ID names: Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Anson Maria Elizabeth Chan Fang On-sang... You'll never get their original Chinese names unless you are too familiar with Hong Kong. They are all famous politicians...
    It's relatively easier to guess inside a particular region: Mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong... since the local rules are clearer.
     
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    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    My last post may be a little bit irrelevant to the starters question: "How do you pronounce it when you read it?"
    The answer is as simple as others said: we do a guesswork.
    If we have no clue or are too lazy to guess, we prefer reading it like an English word, in an English tone.
    @ilikepheobe: I don't think Pinyin is a failure. Just that it's too time-consuming if you try to add tone marks when typing, and it's VERY hard for most foreigners, and, some typewriters, applications and goverment IDs don't support the format...
    Of course I'll support we use it whenever it's possible~
     
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