East Asian Collection Acquires New Romanization Software

East Asian Collection Acquires New Romanization Software

New software is now available in the East Asian Collection which allows Library users to automatically convert text between the Wade-Giles and pinyin romanization systems, and vice versa.

The many languages of the world are written in many different scripts. The writing of Greek, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean is quite distinct from the roman alphabet used to write English and Western European Languages, and there are dozens more scripts for the languages of Central, South, and Southeast Asia. The practical answer to handling materials in these languages has been romanization--the transliteration of the vernacular script into roman letters.

CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) terminals, where one can input and display these languages in their own scripts, are not yet available for public use in the Library's East Asian Collection. Library users must still rely on romanization, but the Library's new Romax software may make the task easier. At present, Romax is installed only on the public terminal in the East Asian Collection.

Many systems of romanizing Chinese are in use, but two are predominant. The Wade-Giles system has traditionally been the standard for scholarship in English, but over the last ten years, more and more scholars and publishers have come to use the pinyin system which has official status in the People's Republic of China. The two systems use different letters to represent a single sound, and there are also differences in word division and diacritics. For example, the name of the People's Republic of China is "Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo" in Wade-Giles and "Zhonghua renmin gongheguo" in pinyin. Below are some examples of well-known Chinese names in each system:

Wade-Giles

Pinyin

Mao Tse-tung Mao Zedong
Teng Hsiao-p'ing Deng Xiaoping
Chou En-lai Zhou Enlai
Pei-ching Beijing

Wade-Giles is used by American libraries, including the University of Chicago. Many Chinese students know the pinyin system but are unfamiliar with Wade-Giles. Until recently, the best the Library could offer was a conversion table, where the patron would have to look up each syllable of the title or author sought. Now, with the new Romax software, the patron can type in the pinyin for a title or author, and Romax will produce the correct Wade-Giles romanization, taking care of word division, diacritics, and hyphens. The entry can then automatically be transferred to the Horizon search screen. Conversion from Wade-Giles to pinyin is also possible. The Romax software was developed by Karl Lo, East Asian Librarian at the University of California at San Diego.

Instructions on how to use Romax can be found adjacent to the terminal in the East Asian Collection on the fifth floor of Regenstein Library, Room 520, and assistance can be requested from East Asian Collection staff in Room 525.

For more information, contact Bill Alspaugh, Bibliographer for Chinese Studies, at 702-8433 or als1@midway.uchicago.edu.

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