This comes in response to the two questions raised by Sun Zehua of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology about pinyin romanization.
The Library of Congress posted and distributed draft pinyin romanization guidelines in 1997 and 1998. At that time, the Library received many comments and suggestions from LC staff as well as respondents from other institutions. The comments were taken into consideration in drawing up the new guidelines. An advance copy of the guidelines was made available to the library community in November, 1998. Final guidelines were issued in August 1999.
The pinyin romanization guidelines are based on Han yu pin yin fang an. They are intended to be clear and unambiguous; to be easy for library users to learn and to follow; and to lend themselves to the greatest possible consistency of application. As with other romanization schemes, Chinese romanization procedures have been adapted for use in American libraries. For example, in addition to the two changes that Mr Sun noted, tones will not be given, syllables will generally be divided, and words of non-Chinese origin will always be romanized systematically.
One of the great drawbacks of the Wade-Giles system was its frequent use of diacritic marks. Therefore, in preparing the pinyin romanization guidelines, there was consensus that diacritic marks should only be used when necessary to clarify and distinguish the syllable, or syllables being romanized. That is why the umlaut is used so sparingly. Just two syllables, lü and nü, conflict directly with two other different-sounding syllables, lu and nu. The umlaut was not used on other syllables that represented similar sounds, such as lue or xue, yu or xu, yuan or xuan, because it was not needed to distinguish these syllables from any others.
As Mr Sun noted, the guidelines call for an apostrophe to be placed between connected syllables that end with the letter n and begin with the letter g. In this case, the apostrophe makes it possible for one to quickly distinguish whether a joined letter *n* goes with the first or second syllable. This provision was suggested by catalogers from within the Library and from other institutions. It is easy to apply, and is helpful to the user.
Philip Melzer, Coordinator for Pinyin Conversio
Team Leader, Korean/Chinese Cataloging Team
Regional and Cooperative Cataloging Division
Library of Congress