When you start learning Teochew, you can soon find out that unlike Mandarin, where pinyin has already become official standard even outside Mainland China, and Wade-Giles is the only other system that still can be seen in use, Teochew employs several romanisation standards, each favoured by its proponents.

This can lead for some confusion if you are a newcomer to learning the language, so it is useful to know about the differences.

Dio⁷ziu¹uê⁷ Pêng¹im¹ Huang¹uan³

潮州話拼音方案 is the official romanisation system published by Department of Education of Guangdong province in 1960. The standard is based on Shantou‧汕頭 pronunciation. It was obviously inspired by Hanyu Pinyin. Due to its official status, it is quite widely used in Mainland China, especially in printed publications. It features:

  • b/p/bh model for unaspirated/aspirated/voiced consonants
  • z/c/r for affricates
  • ê for close-mid front unrounded vowel [e] and e for close back unrounded vowel [ɯ].
  • numbers 1-8 for tones
  • ao for [au] diphthong
  • -n for nasalised vowels (can also be written as superscript ⁿ)
  • b/g/h for departing tone codas
  • spaces between syllables, unless tones are marked as superscript

Example:

北冥有魚 [bag⁴ mêng⁵ u⁶ he⁵] 其名為鯤 [ki⁵ mian⁵ ui⁵ kung¹] 鯤之大 [kung¹ ze¹ dua⁷] 不知其幾千里也 [bug⁴ zai¹ ki⁵ gui² coin¹ li² ia⁷]

In my personal opinion, it is very easy to learn, especially if you already know pinyin, but also very ugly, and even more so with those numbers for tones as your only option.

Tiē-tsiànn-huĕ Tiê-tsiu-uē Lō-má-zi Tsù-im Hng-uànn (Tiê-Lō)

Teochew Romanization System‧潮正會潮州話羅馬字注音方案 was introduced in 2015 by Tie-tsiu Tsiann-im Tsiann-zi Tshok-tsin-hue‧潮州話正音正字促進會 or Teochew Association For Orthoepy & Orthography, a newly established Internet group of young Teochew enthusiasts from Mainland China. It is inspired by the system that was used by a 19th century missionary William Duffus in his “English-Chinese Vocabulary of the Vernacular Or Spoken Language of Swatow” published in 1883, and also somewhat by Taiwanese Romanization System‧臺灣閩南語羅馬字拼音方案. It is already quite popular among Teochew learning and teaching Internet enthusiasts in Mainland China. It features:

  • p/ph/b model for unaspirated/aspirated/voiced consonants
  • ts/tsh/z for affricates
  • e for close-mid front unrounded vowel [e] and ur for close back unrounded vowel [ɯ].
  • diacritics a/á/à/ah/â/ă/ā/âh for tones, or you can use numbers 1-8 instead
  • au for [au] dypthong
  • -nn for nasalised vowels
  • p/t/k/h for departing tone codas
  • hyphens between syllables

In my personal opinion, it’s a bit too quirky. Tone marks are close to counterintuitive, and becomes an unwieldy tshoinn. I’d still prefer it to official romanisation though.

Example:

北冥有魚 [pakh mêng ŭ hê] 其名為鯤 [khî miânn ûi khung] 鯤之大 [khung tse tuā] 不知其幾千里也 [pukh tsai khî kuí tshoinn lí iā]

Gagịnāng Peng-im

家己人拼音 was developed since 2002 by Gaginang, a US-based non-commercial organisation established with the goal of promoting Teochew, which included a bunch of overseas Teochew enthusiasts. It was based on official Teochew romanisation with a bunch of modifications inspired by English orthography and IPA. It features:

  • b/p/bh model for unaspirated/aspirated/voiced consonants
  • ch/j/y for affricates
  • e for close-mid front unrounded vowel [e] and eu for close back unrounded vowel [ɯ].
  • diacritics a/à/ă/ah/ā/á/ạ/āh for tones
  • au for [au] dypthong
  • n for nasalised vowels, alternatively, they can be marked with ‘:’
  • p/t/k/h for departing tone codas
  • no spaces between syllables, hyphens or apostrophes when needed for disambiguation

Example:

北冥有魚 [bak mēng ú hē] 其名為鯤 [kī miān uī kung] 鯤之大 [kung je duạ] 不知其幾千里也 [buk jai kī guì choin lì iạ]

In my personal opinion, this is the most elegant romanisation system for Teochew. It’s the least cluttered and the most intuitive to use, especially for Westerners. The only unintuitive choice is y for [z], but this gives is a bit of Yale Cantonese flavour. Unfortunately, this system is unpopular among Teochew Mainlanders, and Gaginang website seems to be no longer maintained for the last few years.

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These are the three most popular romanisation systems for Teochew. Most of Teochew study resources and materials use one of them. I hope this will help you to recognise which is used and evade confusion when you encounter a different system.

Below are comparison tables for the three romanisation systems described above.

Initials:

Initial IPA DPH TL GPI
/l/ l l l
/p/ b p b
/k/ g k g
/kʰ/ k kh k
/t/ d t d
/pʰ/ p ph p
/tʰ/ t th t
/ts/ z ts j
/dz/ r z y
/s/ s s s
     
/b/ bh b bh
/g/ gh g gh
/tsʰ/ c tsh ch
/h/ h h h
/n/ n n n
/m/ m m m
/ŋ/ ng ng ng

Finals:

Final DPH TL GPI
a/ah a/ah a/ah
ai/aih ai/aih ai/aih
am/ab am/ap am/ab
ang/ag an/at ang/at
ang/ag ang/ak ang/ak
an/ah ann/ahnn an/anh
ao/aoh au/auh au/auh
ê/êh e/eh e/eh
êng/êg eng/ek eng/ek
ên/êh enn/ehnn en/enh
i/ih i/ih i/ih
ia/iah ia/iah ia/iah
iam/iab iam/iap iam/iap
iang/iag ian/iat iang/iat
iang/iag iang/iak iang/iak
ian/iah iann/iahnn ian/ianh
im/ib im/ip im/ip
ing/ig in/it ing/it
in/ih inn/ihnn in/inh
iong/iog iong/iok iong/iok
iu/iuh iu/iuh iu/iuh
o/oh o/oh o/oh
oh oh oh
oi/oih oi/oih oi/oih
ong/og ong/ok ong/ok
on onn on
ou ou ou
u/uh u/uh u/uh
ua/uah ua/uah ua/uah
uai uai uai
uam/uab uam/uap uam/uap
uang/uag uan/uat uang/uat
uang/uag uang/uak uang/uak
uan uann uan
uê/uêh ue/ueh ue/ueh
uên uenn uen
ui ui ui
ung/ug un/ut ung/ut
e/eh ur/urh eu/euh
eng/eg urn/urt eun/eut
ain ainn ain
ain/aih ainn/aihnn ain/ainh
ang/ag an/at ang/at
iang/iag ian/iat iang/iat
iao/iaoh iau/iauh iau/iauh
ing/ig in/it ing/it
in inn in
io/ioh io/ioh io/ioh
ion ionn ion
oin oinn oin
ong/og ong/ok ong/ok
om/ob om/op om/op
貿 ong ong ong
oun ounn oun
uain/uaih uainn/uaihnn uain/uainh
uang/uag uang/uak uang/uak
uêng/uêg ueng/uek ueng/uek
uin uinn uin
uin uinn uin
m/mh m/mh m/mh
en/enh ng/ngh ng/ngh
ung ung ung
eng/eg urn/urt eung/eut

Tones:

Tone DPH TL GPI
陰平 1 a a
陰上 2 á à
陰去 3 à ă
陰入 4 ah ah
陽平 5 â ā
陽上 6 ă á
陽去 7 ā
陽入 8 âh āh