Today’s Google doodle pays homage to the Chinese linguist Zhou Youguang on what would have been his 112th birthday.
Youguang helped create the Chinese phonetic alphabet called Pinyin. He spent three years developing the system of ‘spelled sounds’ that led to the international standard for Romanized Chinese — earning Youguang the title, “Father of Pinyin.”
“The new system transformed China’s literacy rate, providing more natural passage into the written language, which requires mastering thousands of characters,” writes Google on the Google Doodle blog, “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.”
Google says without Youguang’s efforts, phonetic translations of the Chinese language would have never have existed, “The world would still be referring to Beijing as Peking, and to Chongqing as Chungking.”
The animated doodle highlights Youguang’s work by flipping the Os within Google’s name from Pinyin (Gǔgē) to Chinese characters (谷歌) and leads to a search for “Zhou Youguang.”
Google shared the following early drafts of the Zhou Youguang doodle designed by doodler Cynthia Yuan Cheng:
In addition to the three years Youguang spent standardizing Chinese dialects, he authored more than 40 books and translated the Encyclopedia Britannica into Chinese.