January 13, 2018
Zhou Youguang’s 112th Birthday
The O’s in today’s Doodle flip from Pinyin (Gǔgē) to Chinese characters (谷歌). Were it not for celebrated linguist Zhou Youguang, this phonetic translation would never have come to life, and the world would still be referring to ‘Beijing’ as ‘Peking,’ and to ‘Chongqing’ as ‘Chungking.’
Popularly dubbed ‘the Father of Pinyin,’ Youguang spent three years developing the system of ‘spelled sounds’ that is now the international standard for Romanized Chinese. The new system transformed China’s literacy rate, providing more natural passage into the written language, which requires mastering thousands of characters. It bridged multiple Chinese dialects with its shared designations of sound. Today, schoolchildren learn Pinyin before characters, and it is often used to input characters on smartphones and computers.
Pursuing his love of language throughout his life, Youguang authored more than 40 books and translated the Encyclopedia Britannica into Chinese. Born on this day as Zhou Yaoping, this storied linguist later adopted the pen name ‘Yougang’ because he wanted to ‘bring light’ to the world. Today, we celebrate what would’ve been Yougang’s 112th birthday with a special place in the spotlight.
Doodle by Cynthia Yuan Cheng
Early drafts of the Doodle below