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Zhou Youguang, father of Pinyin writing system, dies

Pinyin, the writing system that turns Chinese characters into words using letters from the Roman alphabet, changed the way the language was taught. It was officially adopted by the Chinese Government in 1958, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1982, and the United Nations in 1986.

Jan 16, 2017 15:11 IST
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Chinese linguist Zhou Youguang, known as the father of Pinyin for creating the system of Romanized Chinese writing, passed away on 14 January 2017 in Beijing, China. He was 111.

Pinyin is the writing method that coverts Chinese characters into words using letters from the Roman alphabet. It changed the way the language was taught. In 1958, it was officially adopted by the Chinese Government. In 1982, Pinyin became the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 7098 after a vote. The United Nations adopted it in 1986.

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About Zhou Youguang

Zhou Youguang was a Chinese economist, linguist, sinologist, publisher, banker, and supercentenarian (someone who has lived to or passed their 110th birthday).

He entered Changzhou High School in 1918, during which time he first took interest in linguistics. In 1923, he graduated with honours.

He majored in economics from St. John's University, Shanghai.

In 1955, the Chinese Government appointed Zhou as the head of a committee to reform the Chinese language in order to increase literacy. Before Pinyin was developed, 85 per cent of Chinese people could not read.

His committee was charged with developing a romanization to represent the pronunciation of Chinese characters.

Pinyin was made the official romanization in 1958, although then it was only a pronunciation guide, not a substitute writing system.

Pinyin is the principal vehicle for most Chinese language computer input.

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