[KS] Re: pinyin system and Korean romanization

J.C. Jamieson jcjamieson at cuhk.edu.hk
Tue Nov 30 20:41:03 EST 1999

King's reaction to the pinyin/Korean romanization equation started out all
right, but quickly degenerated into emotionalism and  arrogance.    Korean
romanization drafters are generous in accepting foreign reaction to their
script revision, but final decisions in this exercise are their
prerogative, nobody else's.  Such issues arouse enough irrationality inside
cultures without outsiders interfering, and someday down the road the
Korean south may have to thrash it out again with the north toward a
unified approach.  Foreign specialists can do little more than accept what
is ultimately designed, not all that unpalatable, and follow their own
route for specialist applications.    And one should be more circumspect
before characterizing the Chinese script as "beastly and inefficient".
Scripts, in particular one as unique and influential as Chinese, have much
more to offer than simple notational efficiency.

At 01:31 PM 11/29/99 -0700, you wrote:
>Junghee Lee wrote:
>>If the rominization should be done only for foreigners, why do we accept
>>Pinyin system
>>in the west?
>Equating Pinyin in China with romanization in Korea grossly distorts the
>issue(s) at hand. Unfortunately, even the NAKL bureaucrats are missing this
>Pinyin is (I presume) taught to Chinese children in school, and is meant
>for three things: 1) to indicate the pronunciation of Chinese characters,
>2) to help promote the use of the standard vernacular, 3) Some Chinese
>would argue that Pinyin is destined (in theory, anyway) to replace Chinese
>characters as the official writing system in China. In any case,
>romanization in Korea serves none of these purposes -- Korea doesn't need a
>Pinyin. Pinyin is not a mere auxiliary romanization system for use on road
>signs or in passports -- it is, first and foremost, for the Chinese
>themselves, and is the only official alphabetic means for writing Mandarin
>Chinese (a second language to millions of people in China, including
>millions of Chinese). It also runs parallel to the beastly and inefficient
>Chinese writing system, not to a perfectly good alphabet like hangul.
>Let's not confuse things by dragging Pinyin into this discussion.
>The current romanization farce in Korea is a fiasco perpetrated by zealous,
>nationalist language bureaucrats eager to parade their linguo-patriotism
>(scriptophilia?). Probably the best we can do as concerned 'foreign'
>scholars is ignore it. But I would also be happy to inundate Rob Provine's
>email address with "no" messages, as suggested earlier on the list.
>Ross King
>Associate Professor of Korean
J. C. Jamieson 
Director--Yale-in-China Chinese Language Center, 
Professor of Asian Studies
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
Telephone: 85 2 2609-6725; fax: 85 2 2603-5803


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