Pinyin method

Pinyin method

The pinyin method (zh-stp|s=拼音输入法|t=拼音輸入法|p=pīnyīn shūrù fǎ) refers to a family of input methods based on the pinyin method of romanization.

In the most basic form, the pinyin method allows a user to input Chinese characters by entering the pinyin of a Chinese character and then presenting the user with a list of possible characters with that pronunciation. However, there are a number of slightly different such systems in use, and modern pinyin methods provide a number of convenience features.

Advantages and disadvantages

The obvious advantage of pinyin-based input methods is the ease of learning for Mandarin speakers. Those who are familiar with pinyin would be able to input Chinese characters with almost no training, compared to other input methods.

For non-Mandarin-speaking Chinese, the main advantage of pinyin becomes its disadvantage. They will need to learn the Mandarin pronunciation of characters before they are able to use this input method.

However, since all children in the mainland China are required to learn pinyin in school, pinyin is in fact very popular in the mainland China.

Pinyin was created based on the pronunciation of Standard Mandarin. Regional accent is prevalent in Mandarin among both native and nonnative speakers. This means that significant amount of Mandarin speakers would have trouble distinguishing a number of similar sounding syllables of pinyin, such as "c" and "ch", "s" and "sh", "z" and "zh", "n" and "ng", "h" or "hu" and "f", or "n" and "l". This can be remedied with fuzzy pinyin, a common feature of pinyin method, but fuzzy pinyin has its own drawbacks.

Unlike stroke-based input methods, pinyin method only requires the user to know how to speak Mandarin and be able to recognize the characters. It does not require the user to be able to construct the character from scratch as would in writing Chinese. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is an advantage in that people will be able to type all the characters they can recognize. It is a disadvantage in that it may cause language attrition and skill loss in adults, and it may cause learning barrier for written Chinese in children. [cite web|url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B01E1D9163EF932A35751C0A9679C8B63|title=Where the PC Is Mightier Than the Pen|last=Lee|first=Jennifer|date=2001-02-01|publisher=New York Times|accessdate=2008-07-29]

Elements and features

Pinyin input methods differ in a number of possible aspects. Most pinyin input methods provide convenience features to speed up input. Some of these features can speed up typing immensely.

Conversion length

The basic idea of an input method is to have a buffer that holds the user input until they are converted into characters that would otherwise be unavailable from the keyboard.

In the most basic systems, one character is converted at a time. This makes a very time consuming input process. Not only does the user have to select characters one at a time, it also means that the input system does not have the ability to prioritize character choices using word phrases, grammatical structure, or context. In addition, since the input method only support one character at a time, it likely requires user to type out the full pinyin spelling to narrow down the selection. This system still exists on embedded applications such as cell phone.

Common pinyin implementations on the computer today can hold up to a clause in pinyin before requiring user to convert. It would attempt to guess the appropriate characters by using word phrases from a dictionary, grammatical structure, and context.

Treatment of tones

Chinese is a tonal language. Tones can be used to further distinguish characters of the same sound. Many of the early single-character pinyin method implementations required input of tones in order to narrow down the character selection.

For the sake of convenience, tone selection is disabled by default in most modern pinyin systems on the computer. User may have the option to enable it depending on the pinyin implementation.

Treatment of extended Latin characters (ü and ê)

With the exception of intonation, there are two extended Latin vowels in pinyin. They are ü (U-umlaut) and ê (E-circumflex). Given that US keyboard layout is the most common keyboard layout in China, any pinyin method implementation would need to be able to facilitate the input of those vowels on US keyboard.

Since the letter "v" is unused in Mandarin pinyin, it is universally used as an alias for ü. For example, typing "nv" into the input method would bring up the candidate list for zh-p|p=nǚ.

The handling of ê is not as universal since the character is the only commonly used character under this pronunciation. It is an interjection roughly equivalent to "Eh" in English. Some IMEs such as Google Pinyin merge it into "e", while others create additional letter combination for it, such as "ea" and "eh". Others would simply drop this sound.

Usage statistics and user dictionaries

Most modern input method implementations would adjust the positions of word candidates in the candidate list based on prior usage statistics. In addition, the input method would also support user-defined phrases via a user dictionary.

Abbreviation

Abbreviation is a feature that allows the user to omit all but the first or first couple of letters in the pinyin spelling. This feature can speed up the input of long word phrases significantly. Under this feature, user can enter the word for "concert" (zh-stp|s=音乐会|t=音樂会|p=yīnyuèhuì) by typing "yyh" as supposed to "yinyuehui".

In systems that support user-defined phrase, user can even define their own abbreviations that might not follow standard pinyin rules.

Fuzzy pinyin

Pinyin was created based on the pronunciation of Standard Mandarin. Regional accent is prevalent in Mandarin among both native and nonnative speakers. This means that significant amount of Mandarin speakers would have trouble distinguishing a number of similar sounding syllables of pinyin, such as "c" and "ch", "s" and "sh", "z" and "zh", "n" and "ng", "h" or "hu" and "f", or "n" and "l". "Fuzzy pinyin" or "fuzzy input" (模糊音) is a feature that allows a user to input those similar sounding vowels or consonants as if they were the same thing. It also has disadvantages as the user must choose the correct characters or words from a longer list of "homophones".

Word prediction

Word prediction (zh-stpl|s=联想|t=聯想|p=liánxiǎng|l=association) is a feature of input method that attempts to guess the next series of characters that user is attempting to enter. This feature is often used to refer to two different mechanisms that have similar functions.

One of these mechanisms is akin to an auto-complete function for user input. While user is typing the appropriate pinyin, the input method would take the input and look up all possible word phrases that might match the user input even though the input is incomplete. For example, when user enters "shang", the input method would show "上海" (Shanghai) as a word candidate under this feature.

The second possible mechanism is the prediction of user's next input after the user completes entering a set of words. For example, in the above example, after user selects "上海" (Shanghai) from the word candidate list, the input method's pinyin buffer would be empty. Under this mechanism, the input method would display a list of words that often follows the word Shanghai, such as "人" (people), "市" (city), "的" (an auxiliary word).

Double pinyin

Vowel groups in pinyin can be up to four letters long. "Double pinyin" (双拼) is a method whereby longer vowel groups are assigned to consonant keys as shortcuts. Thus, when the input method expects a vowel, user can use the shortcuts to speed up typing.

Typo correction

Similar to automatic typo correction for English in word processors, pinyin method implementation can recognize possible typos and show appropriate word candidates. Using Google Pinyin as an example, when encountering a suspected typo, Google Pinyin would show both the word candidates assuming it is correct and the word candidates assuming it is a typo.

Language mixing

Most advanced pinyin method implementations allow the mixing of English into an input stream without requiring the user to change the language mode. However, it often comes with some limitations such as requiring the input to be uppercase.

The following examples show the difference if user wishes to enter "这SQL漏洞可以瘫痪整个系统。" (This SQL vulnerability could paralyze the entire system.):
* "zhe [switch to English] SQL [switch to Chinese] loudong keyi tanhuan zhengge xitong." (Unsupported)
* "zhe SQL loudong keyi tanhuan zhengge xitong." (Supported)

Implementations

*Microsoft Pinyin IME, bundled with Windows 2000 or higher, developed by Harbin Institute of Technology.
*ZNABC, bundled with Simplified Chinese edition of Windows XP, developed by Peking University.
*Google Pinyin, Google's implementation for Windows XP.
* [http://www.pinyinput.com Online Pinyin Input Method] web-based IME through browsers.
* [http://www.sogou.com/pinyin/ Sogou Pinyin] , Sogou created the IME on which Google based Google Pinyin
*Smart Pinyin (scim-pinyin), pinyin implementation for SCIM input platform on Linux, BSD, and other Unices.
*Bimspinyin, pinyin implementation for xcin input platform on Linux, BSD, and other Unices.
*InputKing, web-based IME through browsers.
*OpenVanilla, a cross-platform framework for Chinese and more. Great for Mac OS X.

ome popular pinyin input method editors

The following are the most popular pinyin method editors used in the mainland China. It is free to download them at the official websites.

Sogou Pinyin ( _zh. 搜狗拼音输入法)

Google Pinyin ( _zh. 谷歌拼音输入法)

[http://www.unispim.com/ Ziguang Pinyin] ( _zh. 紫光拼音输入法)

[http://py.qq.com/ QQ Pinyin] ( _zh. QQ拼音输入法)

[http://www.microsoft.com/china/mspy/ Microsoft Pinyin] ] ( _zh. 微软拼音输入法)

[http://dir.jjol.cn/Pyjj/ Pinyin Jiajia] ( _zh. 拼音加加输入法)

ee also

*Chinese input methods for computers
*Keyboard layout

References


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