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Wade-Giles, sometimes abbreviated Wade, is an outdated Romanisation (phonetic notation and transliteration) system for the Mandarin dialect of the Chinese language. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Wade[?] in the mid-19th century, and reached settled form with Herbert Giles[?]'s Chinese-English dictionary of 1912. It was the main system of transliteration in the English-speaking world for most of the 20th century.

The pinyin system is now more widely used and is the official system of the People's Republic of China. Taiwan is in the process of converting to some form of pinyin.

A common complaint about the Wade-Giles system is the representation of the unaspirated-aspirated stop consonant pairs using apostrophes: <p, p', t, t', k, k'>. Westerners unfamiliar with the system often ignore the apostrophes, even so far as leaving them out when copying texts, unaware that they represented vital information. The pinyin system addresses this problem by employing the Latin letters customarily used for voiced stops, unneeded in Mandarin, to represent the unaspirated stops: <b, p, d, t, g, k>. Similar problems remain with tone[?] markings in both systems.

Wade-Giles use hyphens to separate all syllables, where as pinyin only use apostrophe to separate ambiguous syllables. Like with the Wade-Giles apostrophes, in transliterations of Chinese institutions and placenames, the hyphens are all ignored.

Other differences with pinyin are:

  • (as in 玉 "jade") always has umlaut above, while pinyin only employs the umlaut when absolutely essential.
  • The pinyin vowel cluster ong is ung in Wade-Giles. (See Confucius as an example.)
  • Wade-Giles chose the French-like j to represent a Northerner's pronunciation of what now is pronounced by the Beijingers like r, which is the letter used in pinyin.
  • Wade-Giles uses superscrit numbers to indicate tone of voice[?], and official pinyin uses diacritics.
  • After a consonant, the Wade-Giles vowel cluster uei is written ui in pinyin. However, both Romanizations, unlike some others, use iu and un instead of the complete syllables, iou and uen.
  • I is never preceeded by y, as in pinyin. The only exception is in placenames, which are hyphenless, so without a y, syllable ambiguity arises.

See also: Daoism versus Taoism for an exceptional example for employing Wade-Giles instead of pinyin.

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