Pronunciation of Beijing

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Wed Sep 25 16:48:50 UTC 2002

My first Chinese instructor (about 12 years ago) told me that the name of
the capital is still pronounced something like [pE'kIng] in the countryside
not too far from the city.  (Please excuse the bastardized IPA, and I'm not
sure of the exact phonetics of the two stops--[b] and [g] may be better
representations.  What's significant is that the second one is a stop
rather than an affricate.)

Peter Mc.

--On Wednesday, September 25, 2002 9:09 AM -0400 "Douglas G. Wilson"
<douglas at NB.NET> wrote:

>> > 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

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at

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