Monday, September 22, 2008

Daoism-Taoism romanization issue

In English, the words Daoism and Taoism are the subject of an ongoing controversy over the preferred romanization for naming this native Chinese philosophy and Chinese religion. The root word "way, path" is romanized ''tao'' in the older Wade-Giles system and '''' in the modern Pinyin system. The sometimes heated arguments over ''Taoism'' vs. ''Daoism'' involve sinology, phonemes, loanwords, and politics – not to mention whether ''Taoism'' should be or .

First, some linguistic terminology and notations need to be introduced. Phonetic transcription is shown with the enclosed in square brackets , and phonemic transcription is enclosed within virgules or forward slashes / /. In articulatory phonetics, "" is an articulation that involves an audible release of breath. For example, the /t/ in ''tore'' is "aspirated" with a noticeable puff of breath, but the /t/ in ''store'' is "unaspirated." The IPA diacritic for aspiration is a superscript "h", , and normal unaspirated consonants are not explicitly marked. "" or "voicing" distinguishes whether a particular sound is either "voiced" or "unvoiced" . Examples of IPA phonation diacritics include voiceless , voiced , breathy voiced , and creaky voiced .

Phonology of and its English approximations

Disregarding tone, , in Mandarin, is pronounced . This pronunciation cannot be accurately reproduced in English by an untrained speaker. The argument between the proponents of ''Dao'' and ''Tao'' hinges on not which of the two is correct, but which of the two spellings read outloud will better approximate the original Chinese.

The initial Chinese sound, a represented by the IPA symbol , exists in English -- but never as an initial. You can find it instead in words such as "stop" or "pat". An initial ''t'', as in "tap", is in English pronounced as -- that is, an aspirated version of ? , its . The natural English pronunciation of the word spelled ''Tao'' is therefore . In standard , however, and are not allophonic, but represent two distinct . In fact, does not merely sound wrong, it sounds like a different word -- "peach", or "cover" .

The alternative English spelling, ''Dao'', results in another mispronunciation, . The initial consonant is , a . However, is not a phoneme in Mandarin, which has no voiced plosives, therefore the initial voicing of is not significant to the Chinese listener. What ''is'' significant is that, unlike the English , is ''not'' aspirated in word-initial position. Therefore the English-speaker's seems more similar to the desired Chinese than the alternative , even though both are technically equally incorrect, one because of voicing, the other because of aspiration. Only the aspiration error is phonemically important to the Chinese listener.

The linguist Michael Carr explains:
The provenance of the pronunciation with of ''Taoism'' is a gap in the English phonemic paradigm for the unvoiced unaspirated in ''dào'' 'way'. This Chinese phoneme is nearer to the pronunciation of English voiced unaspirated in ''Dow'' than the voiceless aspirated in ''Taos'', but it is neither. The Chinese aspirated vs. non-aspirated phonemic contrast is almost the opposite of the English voiced vs. unvoiced contrast. In certain positions, English non-aspirated consonants can occur as variants of aspirated ones. Stops after initials in English *e.g., ''spy'', ''sty'', ''sky'') are unvoiced unaspirated and close to the phoneme in 'way', but these are not highly voiced, and the English distinction can be analyzed as one of aspiration, with voicing redundant and predictable.

Romanizations of

The history of transcribing spoken Chinese is lengthy and inconsistent. Sinologist Paul Kratochvil describes how Westerners predictably misheard Chinese unvoiced consonants, such as the unvoiced unaspirated in 道 .
Since the great majority of people who first attempted to transcribe Chinese were not linguists , their endeavour was marred by a lack of systematic approach and many contemporary European misconceptions about language. Even more than two hundred years later, during the last century, when Western specialists in Chinese, who had by that time created the discipline known as sinology, designed the early forms of numerous transcriptions used today, the first mistakes of enthusiastic missionaries, envoys and business men were not fully eliminated. In fact their traces can be seen even today.

There are numerous rival systems for the Romanization of Chinese for Standard Mandarin pronunciation. Compare these transcriptions of Chinese 道 : Wade-Giles ''tao'' or ''tao''4 , Legge romanization ''t?o'', Latinxua Sin Wenz ''dau'', Yale Romanization ''dàu'', Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II ''dau'', Hanyu Pinyin ''dào'', Tongyong Pinyin ''daˋo'', Gwoyeu Romatzyh or National Romanization ''daw'', Zhuyin fuhao ㄉㄠ, and Cyrillic ''дао''.

Romanization systems use one of two arbitrary ways to represent the Chinese phonemic opposition between aspirated and unaspirated consonants. Take for example, Chinese unaspirated "way" and aspirated "peach". Some systems, like Wade-Giles ''tao'' 道 and ''t'ao'' 桃, introduce a special symbol for aspiration; others, like Pinyin ''dao'' 道 and ''tao'' 桃, use "d" and "t". In English and other languages, "d" and "t" indicate a voiced and unvoiced distinction, which is not phonemic in Chinese.

From a theoretical perspective, both ''tao'' and ''dao'' transliterations if pronounced according to English spelling conventions are equally close to, or far from, the Standard Mandarin pronunciation of 道 . However in practice, most English speakers think the Chinese pronunciation sounds more like an English initial than an English initial because the Chinese pronunciation is unaspirated. Therefore, some argue that ''Dao'' is in that sense more "accurate" than ''Tao''.

An inherent problem with the arcane Wade-Giles use of apostrophes to differentiate aspiration is that many English readers do not understand it, which has resulted in the frequent mispronunciation of ''Taoism'' as instead of . Alan Watts explains using Wade-Giles "in spite of its defects" but writes: "No uninitiated English-speaking person could guess how to pronounce it, and I have even thought, in a jocularly malicious state of mind, that Professors Wade and Giles invented it so as to erect a barrier between profane and illiterate people and true scholars."

The ''Taoism/Daoism'' loanword

In loanword terminology, English ''Taoism/Daoism'' is a "calque," "loan-rendering", or "hybrid" that blends a borrowed word with a native element, for example, '''') blends Chinese Pidgin English ''chop'' with English ''stick''. ''Taoism/Daoism'' is one of a few Chinese ''-ism'' borrowings, along with ''Confucianism'', ''Mohism'', and ''Maoism''.

According to the ''Oxford English Dictionary'' , the first recorded occurrences of the relevant words were ''Tao'' 1736, ''Tau'' 1747, ''Taouism'' and ''Taouist'' 1838, ''Taoistic'' 1856, ''Tao-ism'' 1858, ''Taoism'' 1903 , ''Daoism'' 1948, ''Dao'' and ''Daoist'' 1971.

Carr contrasts the English pronunciations of ''gung-ho'' and ''kung-fu'' to differentiate borrowings deriving from spoken and written Chinese. The ''OED'' records the first usage of ''gung-ho'' in 1942 and of ''kung-fu'' in 1966 . ''Gung-ho'' is more "correctly" pronounced because it was first imported from spoken rather than written Chinese. Nevertheless, many English speakers read the Wade-Giles ''kung-ho'' as . '''' is commonly mispronounced instead of owing to confusion over Wade-Giles romanization of unaspirated ''k'' vs. aspirated ''k''' .
Many Anglo-Chinese borrowings besides ''Taoism'' are mispronounced because of romanization. A commonly heard example is the ''Yijing'' "Book of Changes" which, owing to Wade-Giles "''I Ching''," is usually cacologized as taking ''yi'' 'change; easy' in false analogy with English ''I''. In most cases, Pinyin romanization more accurately represents Chinese pronunciations than Wade-Giles; English speakers would read the martial art "''Tai Ji Quan''" closer to ''tàijíquán'' 'great ultimate fist' than "''T'ai Chi Ch'üan''."

More generations of English speakers have learned about China through Wade-Giles than through Pinyin . The English word ''Taoism'' is unquestionably older and more familiar than ''Daoism''. However, in academia and international politics, there have been continuous trends towards adopting pinyin, which is widely used in the Western study of the Chinese language and official in the People's Republic of China. Hanyu Pinyin has become the international standard for Chinese romanization, used by the United Nations, the International Organization for Standardization , and similar associations.

While sinologists increasingly prefer the term ''Daoism'', traditionalists continue using the well-known ''Taoism''. Some scholars consciously adopt "''Daoism''" in order to distinguish the Chinese philosophy and religion from what "''Taoism''" embodied in the 19th- and 20th-century Western imaginations. Girardot, Miller and Liu explain, "earlier discussions of the Daoist tradition were often distorted and misleading - especially in terms of the special Western fascination with the 'classical' or 'philosophical' ''Daode jing'' and the denigration and neglect of the later sectarian traditions."

Lexicography of ''Taoism''

English dictionaries provide some insights into the ''Daoism''-''Taoism'' problem. For over a century, British and American lexicographers glossed the pronunciation of ''Taoism'' as , but more recently they corrected it to , and added ''Daoism'' entries.

Carr analyzes how English dictionaries gloss ''Taoism'''s pronunciation, comparing 12 published in Great Britain and 11 published in the United States .
Pronunciations are given in various dictionary respelling systems, rather than IPA, but for purposes of discussion, they are divisible into four types: , , , and . The first is strictly "correct," the second and third are partially so, depending upon descriptive/prescriptive policies, and the last is inaccurate. Since many, if not most, English speakers pronounce ''Taoism'' as , it can legitimately be listed as an alternate. Dictionaries are justified in glossing if they follow a convention of giving preferred pronunciation first, or as if they give common pronunciation first .
Within Carr's sample, most American dictionaries gloss , while most British ones gloss and have been slower to add the rectification. The respective first accurate glosses for ''Taoism'' were "''douizm; tou''-" and "Also Daoism and with pronunc. " .


As detailed above, proponents for both sides of the ''Daoism''-''Taoism'' controversy make valid arguments. Some prefer Wade-based ''Taoism'' because it is more familiar than ''Daoism'', and because the borrowing is a fully assimilated English word that presumably should be unaffected by foreign romanizations. However, many of these traditionalists will accept using pinyin for more recent Chinese borrowings. Others prefer pinyin-based ''Daoism'' because the international community largely accepts Hanyu Pinyin as the standard Chinese romanization, and because it is consistent with other English changes, viz. pinyin ''Beijing'' replaced Wade ''Pei-ching'' or Chinese Postal Map Romanization ''Peking''. In conclusion, three illustrative outcomes of ''Daoism'' vs. ''Taoism'' are given from publishing, library, and Wikipedia spheres.

First, publishing houses have profit concerns about changing romanizations of foreign books. There are more English translations titled Tao Te Ching than Dao De Jing, seeing as it is more familiar to native speakers. However, some academic publishers have abandoned Wade-Giles in favor of pinyin; Columbia University Press changed the titles of Burton Watson's translations from "Chuang Tzu" to "Zhuangzi" and from "Han Fei Tzu" to "Hanfeizi".

Second, libraries have independent concerns about revising legacy Wade-Giles catalogs to contemporary pinyin. After the Library of Congress converted to pinyin in 1997, librarian Jiajian Hu listed three reasons why they deemed Wade-Giles unsatisfactory and added four more.
*First, it had phonetically redundant syllables.
*Second, it failed to render the Chinese national standard pronunciation.
*Finally, it wasn't able to show the semantic distinctions between multiple readings of single characters. …
*The Pinyin system of romanization of Chinese is now generally recognized as the standard through the world. …
*Most users of America libraries today are familiar with the pinyin romanization of Chinese names and places. …
*The use of pinyin romanization by libraries also will facilitate the exchange of data with foreign libraries. …
*Pinyin has more access points than Wade-Giles for online retrieval.

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