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Gwoyeu Romatzyh

Gwoyeu Romatzyh (國語羅馬字 Pinyin: Guyǔ Lumǎz), abbreviated GB, is a romanization (formerly used officially in the Republic of China) with complex spelling rules which allow for tonal distinctions (unlike most other Romanizations, which require additional diacritics or numerals).

As a result its tonal spelling, many letters in Gwoyeu Romatzyh are also used to signify tones and not actual segmental sounds. For example, the Pinyin and Wade-Giles ai is written in GB as one of ai, air, ae, or ay (tones 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively). In this case, "r" is not pronounced and simply indicates tone two. However, tone two is not always indicated by r, as GB's iou, you, yeou, or yow correspond to Pinyin and Wade-Giles you. (See #Tonal rules) Because of these elaborate rules and irregularities, GB is difficult to read and learn, in comparison to the later ROC Romanizations (MPS II and Tongyong Pinyin) as well as the already popular Wade-Giles and Hanyu Pinyin.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Segmental features
3 Tonal rules
4 Cosmetic changes
5 Rhotacization
6 Exceptions
7 External links


Proposed by Lin Yutang, and developed mostly by Y.R. Chao and from 1925 to 1926 also by the Preparatory Commission for the Unification of the National Language, GB was proclaimed by the Republican Government University (國民政府大學院 Guomin Zhengfu Daxueyuan) on September 26, 1928. It appeared in addition to the existing phonetic symbols, the Zhuyin. GB was renamed to Transliteration Symbols (譯音符號 Yiyin Fuhao) in 1940. It was modified into and officially replaced by MPS II in January 1986.

Segmental features

The differences and unique similarities unrelated to tone rendering that GB has with Wade-Giles (Wade) and Hanyu Pinyin (Pinyin):

Tonal rules

The additional letter or modified letter (replacement of another) to signify tone is usually done to the
vowel or diphthong. The following list number correspond to tone number.
  1. No extra tone-letter is added to tone one , i.e., they are written as if they have no tone, and syllables with other tones are modified from tone one. Except:
    • Those beginning with l, r, m, and n have -h after them. And tone-two syllables with l, r, m, and n initials behave like tone-one syllable.
  2. For tone-two syllables, all vowels (and last vowel of the diphthongs) are followed by r, except:
    • I becomes y, unless it is final, then i has y preceding it: yi.
    • U becomes w, unless it is final, then u has w preceding it: wu.
  3. Tone-three vowels are doubled, except:
    • I becomes e
    • U becomes o
    • Diphthongs with a do not double and follow the above two exceptions.
    • The diphthong eu becomes iu
    • For diphthongs without a, the letter that comes first in alphabet order is doubled, i.e.,
      • Double e, not i.
      • Double o, not u.
    • Also, there is #cosmetic changes
  4. For tone-two syllables, all vowels (and last vowel of the diphthongs) are followed by h, except:
    • Those syllables end in -n double the consonant: -nn.
    • Those end in -l double the consonant: -ll.
    • Those end in -ng become -nq.
    • In diphthong, the unstressed (or final)...
      • I becomes y.
      • U becomes w.
    • Also, there is #cosmetic changes
  5. A dot (often written as period) is placed before neutral tone syllables (which otherwise appear exactly like those tone-one syllables). However, this is sometimes ignored by writer.

Cosmetic changes

In addition, for cosmetic and clarifying purposes, some initial vowels (all i and u, and some e and o) in tones three and four are replaced or modified, so long as there still will be vowel left in the syllable and the changed syllable does not become identical with another. For tone-three syllables, the modifier is added, except -iee and -uoo -- which have its first vowels replaced. For tone-four syllables, vowels are replaced, except when replacement will mean no vowel left, then the modifier is added.


Because r is already used for the consonant and as a tone two marker, el is used instead to signify the Pinyin er.

Erhua (兒化), or rhotacization, is transcribed as is said (surface form), while most other Romanizations express the underlying form. Sometimes, one GB rhotacized form equals several Pinyin forms, for example,

The final i, y, and n are deleted when rhotacized. For i, y, and iu, the rhotic el is added, for others, just l.


The following are words or characters that always disobey the rules:

External links