Chinese Gregg

Hi All,

I posted on the open stenotype blog about Chinese shorthand and figured I’d also put up the relevant content here.

Could someone get a copy of the Yawei Shorthand theory text I link to below (or one like it found somewhere else etc) and host it on this blog?


Interestingly, the inventor of the Yawei steno theory was originally the inventor of a Gregg Shorthand theory for Chinese, which was in widespread stenographic use until he came up with the machine theory. I have attached a link to a copy (I found somewhere anonymous online) of his Yawei Shorthand theory for reference.
Attachment: yawei-chinese-shorthand-manual.pdf

And here is a link about Tang Yawei’s history.

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14 comments Add yours
  1. Wow, this is fascinating! Thanks a lot for posting this. Too bad I can't read Chinese, but I can read the shorthand, :-).

    I'm hosting the file now.

  2. Good stuff! Thanks for posting it.

    I believe it was Zoubek who used to write from dictation in Japanese at 120 even though he didn't speak the language. It was a publicity stunt, yes, but shows how sounds can be recorded using shorthand. I always wondered what the read-back would be like and how close he'd be to real Japanese.

  3. Thank you very much for posting this! I've been searching for the Chinese adaptation of Gregg but since I can't read Simplified Chinese, I'm having a hard time looking for resources. I'm just curious if this is the same with 北方速记 (Northern Shorthand) which I think, is another adaptation of Gregg in Chinese. Northern Shorthand, according to what I found, is invented (or adapted) by Liu Shouren (柳守仁).

    Anyway, this blog has always been a very good source of information, though I can't just post that much these past few months since I am very busy in school. I would post about the things I found about the Filipino adaptation of Gregg once I'm done with my thesis. Thanks again for this! 😀

    On the other side, it's just so sad to find out that Mr. Tang Yawei (唐亚伟), the inventor of the Chinese adaptation of Gregg posted here as well as the Chinese stenotype, already passed away in 2012 according to this e-news from the InterSteno and China Daily:

    1. Great! Hope it helps! I'm a ways away from engaging with it myself, but I have high hopes!

      I unfortunately switched to Simplified Characters early enough that it will be difficult when I need to switch back… which I likely will as my in-laws are from Taiwan and we're hoping to teach our daughter Chinese.

  4. I can't read this but perhaps my wife can help. I'm wondering how the tonal nature of Chinese was addressed. For instance, the words for buy and sell in Mandarin are phonetically the same to a western ear, differing only by a tone. Any syllable can have one of four tones, or a neutral tone, for a total of five in Mandarin. Other dialects can have even more tones. I heard of one with nine tones. In general , a different tone on a syllable is going to change it into a different word. This would take the ambiguity already present in Gregg to a whole new level.

    1. I don't know how the shorthand does it…

      But, I did read a little about another machine steno theory that was not by Tang Yawei. That theory really took advantage of the lack of tones in the bare pronunciation, in other words it did basically ignore the tones.

      So when it needed disambiguation it relied on the characters' "radical composition" rather than on the tonal pronunciation. Radicals are like the etymological Greek/Latin/Germanic roots of words in the language.

      To possibly give some motivation for that strategy, a lot of Chinese local accents muddle the tones up anyways, and there are are furthermore formal "tone rules" that change the tones in different contexts, so except for recent highschool grads, a lot of people may remember a number of tones incorrectly, especially under time pressure.

  5. This is great to read! It makes sense to do as Gregg did and remap the strokes according to the most common sounds of a language and if they fit together. What really diverges from the original system is the use of position writing, which is only occasionally used in English Gregg. It's almost Pitmanic in conception, but with Gregg strokes.

    1. I'm still puzzled about why he decided to use the long strokes for the voiceless consonants, in contrast to Gregg. Not being able to read Chinese, I wonder if the answer is in the first few pages of the manuscript.

    2. Yes, the phonology of Chinese is very different from Western European languages, and some of the consonants used in those languages do not exist in Chinese, so why not use those extra symbols, right? That makes sense.

      More about Chinese phonology here.

    3. The primary distinction between Chinese consonants is aspirated versus unaspirated, not voiced versus unvoiced. All those consonants where the distinction exists are unvoiced. In this Gregg adaptation, the short strokes are used for the unaspirated consonants and the long strokes for the aspirated ones.

  6. I think the point of confusion is the way Chinese is spelled when the Roman alphabet is used. For instance, d is an unaspirated voiceless consonant, and t is the aspirated equivalent.

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