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Hū’in (滬音/沪音)

Hū’in is a Romanization system for Shanghainese devised by Arthur Thompson as part of a research project while studying at University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). It is based on an existing Shanghainese Romanization system with a new way to indicate tone value and tone sandhi.


Hū’in Romanization system for Shanghainese by Arthur Thompson


An apostrophe is used to divide syllabic vowels, e.g. Zȁng hé’e’ò [CVC.CV.V.V] and Hū’in [CV.VC]

Tone Value and Tone Indication

The number 5 is the absolute highest tone, while the number 1 is the absolute lowest. Tones can only be marked by the whole numerals one through five, there are no decimals or fractions used to mark tones. Repeating a number signifies that the tone is more drawn-out than if it were marked with just a single digit, i.e. 44 is the same tone as 4 but it is “longer”. Double digits also indicate the “direction” of a tone. The first digit signifies from where the tone must begin, while the second digit dictates to what extent the tone should go, i.e. 35 is a mid-rising tone (cf. Mandarin first tone) while 53 is a mid-falling tone (cf.

Shanghainese first tone). It would be almost impossible to explain Shanghainese tone sandhi without explaining the convention of tone value.

Unlike Mandarin, Shanghainese tone sandi does not change according to a word’s combination of tone1. Rather, tone changes rely on the number of characters in the word/or phrase. Tones change according only to the tone of the first character (except for one tone change which moves from left to right, thus depending on the tone of the second character)². (Note: The maximum character per word/phrase is four). In most cases, the tone of the first character spreads across the different syllables of the word/phrase, creating a staircase like pattern of tone combinations (i.e. low to high to higher, or low to high to low to lowest).

Right to left tone sandhi of the five tones (according to number of characters per word/phrase)³

Number of Characters: One Two Three Four
First tone 53 5-2 5-3-2 5-3-3-2
Second tone 34 3-4 3-4-2 3-4-3-2
Third tone 13 1-4 1-4-2 1-4-3-2
Fourth tone 55 3-4 3-4-2 3-4-3-2
Fifth tone 12 1-3 1-1-3 1-2-2-24

Left to right tone sandhi (according to number of characters per word/phrase):

Third tone 13 1-3 N/A N/A
Fifth tone 12 1-3 N/A N/A

Aside from a few exceptions, the “original tone” (i.e. single character tone) of the first character is always written in a multisyllabic word/phrase. The changes in tone sandhi (usually just the dropping of the original tone’s second digit) must be memorized. There are five set ways to mark the five original tones. The five original tones are marked by a combination of (an) accent mark(s). The accent marks indicate the pitch (cf. tone value) of the tone (highest, high, mid, low, and lowest). The grave accent marks represent low tones, while the macron and acute accent marks represent the high tones. Absence of an accent mark signifies a mid-level tone.

Tone Value (high to low): 5 4 3 2 1
Single Digit Tones: a
Number of Characters: One Two Three Four
First tone (53) āa ā-à ā-a-à ā-a-a-à
Second tone (34) aá a-á a-á-à a-á-a-à
Third tone (13) ȁa ȁ-á ȁ-á-à ȁ-á-a-à
Fourth tone (5) āā a-á a-á-à a-á-a-à
Fifth tone (12) ȁà ȁ-a ȁ-ȁ-a ȁ-á-á-áà*

*the last syllable is a low-rise which has the tone value of 24

Left to right tone sandhi (according to number of characters per word/phrase):

Third tone: ȁa ȁ-a N/A N/A
Fifth tone: ȁá ȁ-a N/A N/A

Basic Shanghainese Phrases

Shanghainese Dialectical Characters Hū’in 滬音/ 沪音 English
儂好 Nȍng hoa Hello
再會 Tse Úe Goodbye, Bye
儂飯吃過了𠲎? Nȍng vè qièt gùú let vá? Have you eaten yet?
吃過了。 Qiet gú lèt (I) have eaten.
上海閒話 Zȁng hé e’ò Shanghainese (dialect)
上海人 Zȁng hé nìng Shanghainese person
伊出去了。 ȉ cét qi lè He/She went out.
啥辰光? Sa zéng kuàng? When?
早浪頭 Tsoa láng dhèu Morning
上半日 Zȁng bóe nièt Late Morning
中浪頭 Tsōng lang dhèu Noon
下半日 Ȕo bóe nièt Afternoon
夜到頭 Yȁ dóa dhèu Evening, Night
鞋里? Hȁ li Where?
哪能? Nȁ neng How?
謝謝 Dziȁh dziah Thanks, thank you


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