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Re: Osama or Usama?

<<On Tue, 9 Oct 2001 00:48:39 -0400, "A. Joseph Ross" <lawyer@attorneyross.com> said:

> Actually, Beiping, or something like that, was its name under
> Nationalist rule.

Chinese is a different story from Arabic.  In the case of Chinese,
there was a standardized transliteration [1] system (named after the two
English gentlemen who designed in) for a hundred years.  The
Communists did not like that system and replaced it with the modern
system called Pinyin.  Although Pinyin is arguably a better
transliteration than the old system was, the Nationalists did not want
anything to do with it, so Taiwan still uses the old system -- which
is why we call the capital of Republican China ``Taipei'' and not
``Taibei'' which would be the Pinyin representation.


[1] ``Transliteration'' is technically not the correct term for
Chinese because Chinese symbols do not represent specific sounds, but
I can't remember what the linguistically-correct term is.
Transliteration is the correct term for the transformation from one
alphabet into another, such as between Hebrew and Cyrillic, Hiragana
and Roman, or Inuktitut syllabic and Greek.  In all of these
writing systems, a single ``letter'' represents a specific sound or
set of sounds; not so in Chinese, where each character represents a
word independent of its sound.