Linguisteria e Programmettas

Lwoma'z/Loamazi: A Romanization Scheme of Mandarin and Cantonese

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Lwoma'z is a romanization system that I designed for Mandarin and Cantonese. It is a single system that handles both languages, unifying the spelling of sounds that are sufficiently similar while keeping distinct spellings for those that are different.

I was motivated by the perceived counterintuitiveness of some Pinyin spellings (such as the uses of "q" for t͡ɕʰ) and rules (such as having separate spellings for the finals depending on whether they are preceded by an initial, like in the case of "wen" and "chun"). On the other hand, I like Pinyin's use of diacritics to denote the tone contours, which I have decided to use for romanizing Cantonese (the Yale romanization system for Cantonese also uses diacritics, but uses an "h" for the lower-pitched tones). The idea of unifying Mandarin and Cantonese in one romanization system comes from the fact that they are written in the same script (i.e. Chinese, barring differences between Simplified and Traditional Chinese).


The following table lists the initials in Lwoma'z. Like many existing romanization systems, the distinction between aspirated and unaspirated consonants is marked by using voiced and voiceless letters.

Lwoma'z Pinyin equivalent Jyutping equivalent IPA Example character
b b b p
ch (1) (2) ch, q c t͡ɕʰ, t͡ʃʰ, t͡ʂʰ 出 晴
d d d t
f f f f
g g g k
gw gw
h h h h, x
j (1) (2) j, zh z t͡ɕ, t͡ʃ, t͡ʂ 睛 知
k k k
kw kw kʰʷ
l l l l
m m m m
n n n n
ng ng ŋ
p p p
r r ɻ
s s s s
sh (2) sh, x ɕ, ʂ 西 施
t t t
ts c c t͡sʰ
w (3) w w
y (3) j j
z z z t͡s, t͡ʃ


  1. In Cantonese, /t͡ʃ/ is an allophone of /t͡s/ that occurs before /œ/, and sometimes /i/ and /y/. Thus, syllables that start with "tsoe-" can be optionally spelled as "choe-" (such as"choet"), and "zoe-" would be "joe-" (such as "joeng").
  2. In Mandarin, /ɕ/ is an allophone of /ʂ/ that occurs before /i/, /j/, /y/, and /ɥ/ (similarly for /t͡ɕ), so the spellings for "zh", "ch" and "sh" are also used for "j", "q", and "x" in Pinyin.
  3. When the final is /i/ or /y/ ("eu"), this initial can be optionally dropped, so "yi" would become "i", and "yeu" would become "eu".


The following table lists the finals for Lwoma'z in alphabetical order. Unlike in Pinyin, the finals' spellings stay the same regardless of whether an initial consonant is present. Thus, "chun" in Pinyin would simply be spelled as "chwen".

Lwoma'z Pinyin equivalent Jyutping equivalent IPA Example character
a a aa a(ː)
ae (1) ê e ɛ(ː) 欸 (M) 夜 (C)
aeng eng ɛːŋ
ai ai aai a(ː)i̯
am aam a(ː)m
an an aan a(ː)n
ang ang aang a(ː)ŋ
ar er aɚ̯
au ao aau aːu̯
e e ɤ
eai ai ɐi̯ 西
eau au ɐu̯
eam am ɐm
eang ang ɐŋ
ei ei ei ei̯
en en əŋ
eng -eng əŋ
er er ɚ
eu yu/-ü yu y
eun yun/-un eun yn 云(M) 算(C)
i yi/-i i i(ː)
im im iːm
in yin/-in in i(ː)n 音(M) 先(C)
ing ying/-ing ing iŋ or ɪŋ
iu iu iːu̯
oa o ɔː
oai oi ɔːy̯
oan on ɔːn
oang ong ɔːŋ
oe oe œː
oei eoi ɵy̯
oen eon ɵn
oeng oeng œːŋ
ong -ong ung ʊŋ
ou ou ou ou̯ 州(M) 路(C)
ya ya/-ia ja
yen yan jɛn
ye ye/-ie je
yau yao/-iao jau̯
you you/-iu jou̯
yang yang/-iang jaŋ
yong yong/-iong jʊŋ
u wu/-u u u(ː)
ui ui uːi̯
un un uːn
wa wa/-ua wa
wo wo/-uo/-o wo
wai wai/-uai wai̯
wei wei/-ui wei̯
wan wan/-uan wan
wen wen/-un wən
wang wang/-uang waŋ
weng weng wəŋ
yue yue/-üe ɥe
yuen yuan/-uan ɥɛn


  1. In Mandarin, this occurs only in interjections.

Syllabic consonants

Both Mandarin and Cantonese have sustained consonants that are used as the nucleus of a syllable in place of a vowel. In Mandarin, they end with either "r" or "z", depending on the place of articulation. In Cantonese, which has nasal consonants, they use "m" or "ng", like in Jyutping.

Lwoma'z Pinyin equivalent Jyutping equivalent Example character
chr chi
jr zhi
m (1) m m
n (1) n
ng (1) ng ng 哼(M) 午(C)
r ri
sz si
sh shi
tsz ci
z zi


  1. For Mandarin, this occurs only in interjections.


Like Pinyin, Lwoma'z uses diacritics to indicate the tone. Like those in Pinyin, the diacritic mimics the contour of the pitch change. In Cantonese, since multiple tones have the same contour (e.g. tone 2 and tone 5 are both rising), the diacritic is placed below the letter for the low-pitched tones. This avoids the need to memorize the order of tones as indicated by numbers, as in Jyutping (and also eliminates the need for mnemonics for memorizing the order). The table is sorted by pitch, from high to low.

The diacritic is always placed on the first vowel letter of the final, and in the case of syllabic consonants, on the "h" (e.g. "jh̄" for "zhī" and "sēai" for "sai1").

Contour Lwoma'z Pinyin equivalent Jyutping equivalent
High flat ā ā (1) 1
High falling à à (4) 1
Mid rising á á (2) 2
Mid flat ä 3
Low rising 5
Low flat 6
Low bounce ǎ ǎ (3)
Low falling 4
Neutral a a

Here are the tones in their canonical order in each language:

Mandarin Cantonese
ā (1) ā, à (1)
á (2) á (2)
ǎ (3) ä (3)
à (4) a̖ (4)
a̗ (5)
a̱ (6)

Differences with the Yale romanization for Mandarin

Lwoma'z is almost identical to the Yale romanization for Mandarin, but with the following differences:

Example text

The following is an example of Lwoma'z/Loamazi in context. The poem is the same as the one used on Wikipedia.

Chinese Mandarin Cantonese
春眠不覺曉, Chwēnmyén bù jyué shyǎu, Chōenmi̖n bēat göak híu,
處處聞啼鳥。 chùchù wén tí nyǎu. chēuchēu me̖an te̖ai ni̗u.
夜來風雨聲, Yè lái fēng'ěu shēng, Ya̱e lo̖ai fōng'ye̗u sīng,
花落知多少? hwā lwò jr̄ dwōshǎu? fā lo̱ak zī dōasíu?