Computer-assisted teaching of Pinyin orthography

Peter Leimbigler, Ph.D.

Facilitating compliance with Pinyin orthography (中文拼音正词法) for teachers and learners is a main task for Chinese language teachers and software designers. This article introduces algorithmic self-correcting software solutions for Pinyin Input with non-standard spacing. Focus is on four aspects of Pinyin orthography in a computerized learning environment: 1) spacing rules for modal particles, 2) orthography of four-syllable fixed expressions, 3) number/measure-word combinations, and 4) an option for tone changes ("sandhi") being reflected in the Pinyin rendering.

3. Number/measure-word combinations

A number/measure-word algorithm that includes correct English translation of these combinations (including rendering of the numbers and singular/plural forms of the objects) is proving useful for teaching Pinyin orthography. For example, the non-tonal Pinyin input "san ke shu" produces 三棵树, which dictionary-tool-tips as "3 trees" and back-converts to "sān kē sh¨". The non-tonal input "san ke zhu" converts to 三颗珠, which dictionary-tool-tips as "3 pearls" and back-converts to "sān kē zhū".

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"as an option, tone changes (sandhi) reflected in Pinyin"