Romanize me!
March 9, 2015 3:12 PM   Subscribe

What did they use in China, particularly in Cantonese speaking regions, to romanize names around the turn of the century? How did foreigners choose how to transcribe Cantonese names in the Latin alphabet back before the 1920s?

I come bearing another language question! Tell me all you know about romanization schemes for Chinese languages BEFORE the advent of Wade-Giles. What was commonly used in pre-1920s China to transcribe Chinese names in the Latin alphabet? I am especially interested in systems used to transcribe Cantonese names, if there was any distinction. Bonus points if you can point me to some sort of "converter" or chart that will tell me what the characters or pinyin for an old, romanized name would be. Google wants to tell me all about the various ways Cantonese can be romanized currently, which is not much help.
posted by chainsofreedom to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think there would have been a standardized way. Maybe you can do some digging around and look at some documents from missionaries at that time to see how they did it?

This book, The Power of Words, brings up one missionary who tried to standardize Cantonese romanization.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 3:27 PM on March 9, 2015

Best answer: There's good information in the Wikipedia article; I draw your attention in particular to the postal romanization, which was frequently used back then.
posted by languagehat at 5:34 PM on March 9, 2015

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