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I am working on an art project where I would like to collect hundreds of different transliterations of 「中文」 zhōng wén in Mandarin Chinese. (Pronunciation available here: https://translate.google.com/#zh-CN/de/中文)

How can I transliterate zhōng wén in Italian? (For example, "zhong wen" would be the closest pronunciation in English.)

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    If you want a phonetic description I'd say gion uen or scion uen but usually when we want to write Chinese words in Italian we use either Pinyin or Wade-Giles. – Denis Nardin Apr 1 '17 at 19:20
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    Semi-serious comment: probably the closest approximation that you can convey to the average Italian is "it's pronounced like John Wayne". – Federico Poloni Apr 2 '17 at 7:34
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Since you say that you are collecting hundreds of transliterations, I assume that you already considered all the standard romanizations, and are searching for more specific italian transliterations. From what I could hear, 中 could be gion, cion or scion, while 文 could be uen or uein.

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Ciao, per caso ho visto questa domanda. Sono cinese, e mi pare che 中 si pronuncia come /g(g di gi)-on/ [dʒ-o-ŋ] ("cion or scion" are totally wrong). ---------文 [uen]. Come "ven" di vendere, ma non si usa i denti a sfiorare il labro, quindi "u" è più vicino. Ciao!

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I recommend ciognuen.

The sounds written in IPA (sans tones) would clarify exactly what is different:

  • Standard Mandarin: /ʈ͡ʂʊŋu̯ən/
  • Standard Italian: /t͡ʃoɲwen/

The choice of ci over gi is due to the fact that Italian does not have aspirated plosives, and Mandarin does not have voiced plosives. So in transliterating as close as possible to what is spoken, you also lose the contrast between initials like b and p as they both reduce to p.

The ng sound in Mandarin is an allophone in Italian as in the word banconota. The sound does not appear alone and cannot be written alone. So, the next closest substitute is the Italian gn.

The sound sequences can be found in native Italian words, so it should be fairly pronounceable to the Italian speaker:

  • cioccolata
  • ognuno
  • eloquenza

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