New developments in technology and computer programming have prompted the Library of Congress to again consider converting from Wade-Giles romanization of Chinese to the pinyin system. The Library has begun discussing options for conversion with the major utilities and the library community.
In 1990, the Library of Congress indicated that it wished to explore, with OCLC and RLG, possibilities of machine conversion of existing MARC records to pinyin. It was recognized then that a preliminary step in preparing for conversion would involve discussion and agreement on a standard for word division.
It has been almost forty years since the People's Republic of China adopted pinyin. Pinyin is now generally recognized as the standard for romanization of Chinese throughout most of the world. And yet, there seems to be no generally accepted international standard for pinyin word division. Although the government of China has issued standards for word division, publishers and authors often do not conform to its guidelines. Dictionaries published in China do not follow consistent word division practices.
European romanization practices and word division practices also seem to vary greatly. For example,
We feel that the absence of an international standard for word division provides us with the opportunity to propose a system that best meets our needs.
The National Library of Australia (NLA) has sought to maintain consistency in applying syllable aggregation practice as it converts its files from Wade-Giles to pinyin. NLA pinyin word division guidelines are embodied in two of its CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) Technical Committee resolutions, and read as follows:
- where the preferred form in LCNA is a pure Wade-Giles form, the preferred form in the Pinyin database should be that Wade-Giles form converted to Pinyin
- where the preferred form in LCNA is an "established" form i.e. not a pure Wade-Giles form, for instance Chang Kai-shek and Confucius, the preferred form in the Pinyin database should be that "established" form.
Note: LCNA is the Library of Congress Name Authority file.
In other words, individual syllables of surnames and forenames, instead of being hyphenated, would be connected, as would individual syllables of geographic names. Terms for jurisdictions and topographical features would be separated from geographic names. All other syllables would be separated from each other.
The Library of Congress proposes following the practice that has been adopted by the National Library of Australia. We believe that this approach would offer a number of distinct advantages:
For all of the above reasons, we believe that this would be the most economical approach for the Library of Congress, the major utilities, and individual libraries. Furthermore, it would be easy for users to learn and apply.
This proposal will be submitted to professional organizations for review and comment. The Library would also appreciate receiving comments on this proposal from scholars and other library users. Please send all comments to the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org