Pronunciation of Beijing

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Sep 25 13:09:56 UTC 2002

> > Prior to that, of course, the older Wade-Giles transliteration
> > <Peking> had been misinterpreted according to English spelling
> > rules as /piykIng/ (here /ng/ indicates the velar nasal only).
>Wade-Giles romanization is "Peiching."  "Peking" is an old
>postal spelling predating Wades-Giles which, along with
>"Canton" and "Nanking" and others, are roman transliterations
>based on Southern Chinese pronunciations.  I'm no authority,
>but it seems that they survived the "Wade-Giles era" through
>force of use.

I'm even less authoritative, but I suppose that "Peking" and similar names
were transcribed from Mandarin, but either before a Mandarin phonetic shift
or from a more conservative dialect of Mandarin. Consider "jin" = "gold"
(similar to /dZIn/). Sino-Japanese is usually "kin", Sino-Korean of course
is "kim". Karlgren ("Analytic Dictionary ...", 1923) gives specifically
Mandarin "kin" (Karlgren uses something similar to Wade-Giles; this might
be similar to /gIn/). Or "jing" = "capital city" as in "Beijing", with
Sino-Japanese "kyoo" as in "Tokyo", "king" in Karlgren. Wieger (p. 21)
gives a list of initial Mandarin sounds arranged by "Fan T'eng-feng" from
around 1700, with the character for "gold" (listed in Wieger as Wade-Giles
"chin") as the example or prototype for the initial consonant "k"
(Wade-Giles)! Karlgren explains [I guess] (p. 10): "But the Mandarin of
Peking has been subject in recent times to another most radical
palatalisation (yodisation). The gutturals _k_, _k'_, _h_ ... as well as
the dental affricatives and fricatives ... all have been palatalized before
every modern _i_ and _u"_ [that's u-umlaut] ... [examples follow] ... Of
this modern phenomenon in Mandarin I take no notice in my transcription ...."

And of course there's tradition ... see for example Peking U.'s web site
[note the "k" in the address!]:

-- Doug Wilson

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