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RE: Chinese pronunciation



Apostrophe in pinyin
The apostrophe is used in English texts to indicate 
separate syllables between vowels in Chinese words 
transcribed in pinyin. Of course, this stems from the 
pinyin practice of combining syllables into multisyllable 
words without hyphens.  I have a Chinese pinyin dictionary 
in front of me that states "An apostrophe is used to 
separate syllables in compound-character entries that may 
be confused." The old Wade-Giles system used hyphens to 
separate syllables so hsien and hsi-an would never be 
confused as pinyin xian and xian (xi'an) might without the 
apostrophe. I have also seen it used to distinguish yinan 
(yi + nan) from yin'an (yin + an). However, in an offical 
Latin name, the apostrophe or hyphen cannot be used so the 
etymology would be important for distinguishing between 
a "Xianosaurus" [shyen-o-SAWR-us] and a "Xianosaurus" 
[shee-ahn-o-SAWR-us]. 
Note that this use of the apostrophe is TOTALLY different 
from the use of the apostrophe in Wade-Giles, where it 
stood for aspiration (a puff of breath) as in T'ang 
Dynasty.  The distinction made in pinyin between b/p and 
d/t was made as p/p' and t/t' in Wade-Giles.  Since all 
diacriticals are dropped in scientific names according to 
the ICZN rules, names with elements transcribed in Wade-
Giles can be quite confusing to pronounce if you don't 
have the derivation.  Hope nobody has a headache from all 
this arcane linguistic trivia.