Today, I was sitting on the bed playing with the puppy and my spouse asks Alexa for his daily briefing. In it, NPR reported that Chinese linguist Zhou Youguang had passed away. At first, I was a bit surprised to hear that the passing of a linguist would garner attention on any major news outlet. Then, I listened in to the story. Not only did Mr. Zhou create pinyin (拼音), the system of presenting the sounds of the Chinese language in Roman letters, he also passed away at the age of 111 and a day. That’s a hell of an achievement. The pinyin system not only helped to facilitate sharp increases in literacy rates in China, but it also has promoted Chinese as a second language (CSL) learning for students around the globe, myself included. If it weren’t for pinyin, it would have been a much harder time getting started in the language—not to mention typing it, as I’ve never figured out any input system besides pinyin input. But to live to 111? That’s intense.
So, as with other great linguists that have passed in recent years, thanks for all you’ve done!