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Daoism versus Taoism

Daoism is the official pinyin Chinese Romanization of the word -- Taoism (c.f.), which refers to an Asian philosophy and religion. The concepts of Taoism were first widely studied in the West when the older and slightly less complete Wade-Giles transliteration system was in use. Consequently, Wade-Giles spellings are still generally used in most English language editions of the Tao Te Ching and other major Taoist works. "Taoism" appeared first in English in 1836 (Oxford English Dictionary).

Due to fundamental differences between Chinese and English phonology, neither <d> nor <t> can be considered adequate representations for the consonant at the beginning of the word "Dao"/"Tao." The Chinese pronunciation is 'voiced'(like 'd' and not like 't'), but it is also 'unaspirated' (without the puff of air normal to English 'd'). Thus, 'daoism' is closer, provided the 'd' sound is rather clipped (like 't'), and not followed by a puff of air.

Some people think that existing words in English which come from Chinese words should be remodeled after the Pinyin transliteration scheme, in light of its several important benefits over older transliteration schemes. Other people think that the older forms should be retained because the older spellings have now become assimilated English words in their own right, and are not Chinese anymore, while new borrowings should be written according to the better transliteration scheme.

This example illustrates one of the several advantages that the Pinyin transliteration scheme has over the older Wade-Giles scheme, from a scientific, linguistic point of view. It should be noted that Chinese scholars have spent a great deal of effort in modernizing Chinese 'Romanization,' and Pinyin in general resolves many problems with earlier systems.

See also: m:Use pinyin not Wade-Giles



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