Talk:Standard Chinese phonology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Languages  
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Languages, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of standardized, informative and easy-to-use resources about languages on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Linguistics / Phonetics   
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Linguistics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Linguistics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the Phonetics Task Force.
WikiProject China (Rated C-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject China, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of China related articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.

Rising tone name[edit]

I write this in an effort to resist any more changing of the name of the rising tone (上聲) to shàng. The name of the rising tone has a rising tone. In Beijing Mandarin, that is the third tone. Therefore, the name of the third tone is shǎng. For more information, see Tone name. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Asoer (talkcontribs) 05:48, 15 May 2010 (UTC)

About the pronunciation of pinyin b as /p/ or /b/ and p as /p^h/[edit]

As can be seen in , the pronunciation of b should be /b/ or /p/ (not aspirated) and p should be /p^h/ (aspirated).

Anyway, my experience as a Chinese student shows me that b is pronounced as /b/ as can be heard in or in , even though the "Handbook Of The International Phonetic Association" says it should be pronounced as /p/. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:20, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

I don't see that either of those sources says that Pinyin b is pronounced as a voiced [b]. Mandarin is a very well studied language; it is consensus among all interested linguists that it distinguishes voiceless unaspirated stops from voiceless aspirated stops, but does not have voiced stops. —Angr (talk) 21:36, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, I think he may be going by the audio itself. Soap 21:39, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

As a native speaker, I think that the unaspirated voiceless stops are likely to become voiced in the future as a result of foreign language studies. At present they are incidentally slack voiced even when spoken in isolation. (talk) 06:12, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

I can second the observations by the above native speaker. As a Chinese student I have recently observed that indeed voiceless unaspirated stops are slightly voiced. Also, as a native speaker of Spanish, which differentiates between /b/ and /p/, the sound of Chinese 'b' is neither /b/ nor /p/, both of which would sound unnatural. However, where I live (Wuxi) I have come across several locals with non-standard pronunciation who blatantly voice their Bs, Ds and Gs and have absolutely no problems communicating with other speakers of Standard Chinese. It certainly sounds strange but it is unambiguous, which means that a certain amount of voicing is acceptable and widespread, and considering how millions of Chinese people from all over the country live together in the big cities, it wouldn't be surprising for other alterations to become the norm. Similar phenomena are observed in other languages: in Spanish, for instance, a great number of speakers pronounce voiced stops as voiced approximants. In most cases deviations from the standard pronunciation occur because speakers naturally adopt the articulation method that requires the least amount of effort and dexterity while still being understood. When distortion is so great that communication is impaired, speakers naturally take a step back towards a more standard pronunciation. Through this process of negative feedback, speakers adjust the mechanics of their speech organs to achieve the optimal balance between intelligibility and effort. Pronunciation is constantly evolving. We will never know how Chinese was pronounced 2000 years ago, because there are no recordings, but I can assure you it would be very different, especially with the Chinese writing system being non-phonetic.

About the 'o' in pinyin 'wo'[edit]

I think it means a less rounded 'o'. Why 'ɔ'? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Rethliopuks (talkcontribs) 16:20, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

Neutral tone[edit]

This section is quite poor. There are apparently many interesting issues that can and should be covered. For example:

- Do some morphemes (characters) have only a neutral tone associated with them?

- In what situations does a toned morpheme change to the neutral tone?

The following page lists the various uses of the neutral tone, but not in a very systematic fashion:

I'm just a beginner so I'm not going to attempt to tackle this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:16, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

I don't think there are hard and fast rules regarding the neutral tone. Native speakers don't think about the neutral tone when they speak. IN many cases the neutral tone is an integral part of a word (e.g. eyes is yǎn jing vs glasses yǎn jìng). Natives simply mimic the speech of those around it as this is the fastest route to effective communication. Some native Chinese speakers use the neutral tone more than others, which means that, like I said, there are no hard and fast rules, therefore my theory is that the neutral tone can be applied to the last syllable of any word as long as it does not cause ambiguity or impairs understanding. Native speakers who use the neutral tone "creatively" determine when it's OK to use it based on this theory through trial and error, that is, if they use the neutral tone for a given word or expression and others can't understand what they are saying, then they naturally learn that it is not OK to use the neutral tone in that particular case, and they don't do it again. This way speakers gradually build up a "look-up table" of neutral tone dos and don'ts which enables them to apply the neutral tone correctly. Incidentally, this is the main difference between a native speaker and a learner: the native uses a look-up table while the learner uses rules to determine what's correct and what's not correct. Rules are compact and simple, but require more processing; look-up tables are fast but require more storage space (this is also true of computers). Building up these look-up tables takes many years, but it is the most natural way to learn and master any language. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Feidaman (talkcontribs) 14:06, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

Tone Sandhi[edit]

As a native speaker, I don't think introduction there is actually accurate. When there are two 3rd tones (˨˩˦) in a row, the first syllable DOESN'T becomes 2nd tone (˧˥), but becomes a lower tone, just seems like tone˧˦(34). Anyway, double tone3 is just different from tone2+tone3.Rethliopuks (talk) 05:10, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

No. A lot of research has shown that Chinese people cannot distinguish between maima buy a horse and maima bury a horse. Academic studies by Chinese linguists show that some people claim to be able to distinguish between 2+3 and 3+3, but under test conditions can only get it right 50% of the time. So you're 'I'm a native speaker, so I'm right' shtick is worthless. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:38, 2 September 2013 (UTC)

Recent move[edit]

Kanguole, please explain yourself. Since when has WP mandated that we maintain uniformity across articles? I'm not going to wheel-war, but I am not convinced that this article describes solely the phonology for "Putonghua". Indeed, many of these rules pronunciation rules exist within Beijing dialect, among others. And I warn you. I will not tolerate an aggressive attitude in the mould of Taivo. --HXL's Roundtable, and Record 04:19, 11 February 2011 (UTC)

In the previous version, the article was explicitly about the phonology of the standard language, as it has been since it was created by splitting out the Phonology section of Standard Mandarin. Surely the question of its title is the same as that of the parent article. Of course the phonology of Putonghua/Guoyu is based on that of Beijing, but the phonology of Mandarin dialects in general is covered at Mandarin dialects#Phonology. Kanguole 09:33, 11 February 2011 (UTC)
What is the point of changing the name to Standard Chinese? From a descriptive point of view, there is no "Chinese language" but a family of closely related languages. The official language of the PRC is Mandarin (based on but not identical to the Beijing dialect) and that's the name we use elsewhere on Wikipedia. I nominate changing it back. AlexanderKaras (talk) 09:06, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
Do you mean you want to move Standard Chinese back? There was an extensive move discussion that concluded that that was the most common term for the language in recent English-language sources. In addition, plain "Mandarin" is ambiguous: it could refer to the standard language or to the Mandarin Chinese group of dialects. Kanguole 09:24, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
What do you mean "from a descriptive point of view", Alexander? I can only recall seeing Chinese described as a group of unintelligible dialects. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 15:26, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
That's my point. There is no single "Chinese language" to speak of, so it makes more sense to say "Standard Mandarin". Doesn't it? AlexanderKaras (talk) 20:33, 11 April 2011 (UTC)
Ahh, but see a language is a dialect with an army and navy. There's no objective, "descriptive" way to distinguish between a group of related dialects and a group of related languages. Even using mutual intelligibility has problems. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 21:02, 11 April 2011 (UTC)
I'm honestly not interested in discussing whether Mandarin is a language or a dialect of Chinese; I just think it's more precise to specify that this article is about standard Mandarin in particular. There are several dialects of that language too (or dialects of a dialect, if you prefer). AlexanderKaras (talk) 02:56, 6 May 2011 (UTC)
Are there standard varieties of other Chinese dialects? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 04:13, 6 May 2011 (UTC)
Standard Cantonese and Taiwanese Hokkien come to mind. Quigley (talk) 04:30, 6 May 2011 (UTC)
This was discussed at great length in Talk:Standard Chinese#Requested move. In summary, the most common name for this language in reliable English-language sources is "(Modern) (Standard) Chinese", so its article is called Standard Chinese. Kanguole 08:29, 6 May 2011 (UTC)

Missing character for "la"[edit]

Under variants of the exclamation "a", the character for "la" is not given. Could this character be 啦? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:24, 1 February 2012 (UTC)

Complementary distribution???[edit]

"The alveolo-palatal consonants [t͡ɕ t͡ɕʰ ɕ] are in complementary distribution with the alveolar consonants [t͡s t͡sʰ s], retroflex consonants [t͡ʂ t͡ʂʰ ʂ], and velar consonants [k kʰ x]" I am a native speaker of Mandarin, and I can say this is totally wrong. Phonemes with complementary distribution should not have minimal pairs, while in fact the above three sets do have minimal pairs. Example: [t͡ɕa] "home", [t͡ʂa] "poke", [ka] "jam (verb)." This is a pretty big mistake but I am not a linguist so I did not correct it. Could anybody clarify this up? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:48, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

I believe it's based on analysing the first one (jiā) as [t͡ɕja]. Kanguole 14:19, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
The claim is uncited, so I've marked it as dubious. After a reasonable amount of time has been given to allow editors to back up the claim, we'll take it out if it's still uncited. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 21:34, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

The Consonants and Vowels sections really need some citations and example characters[edit]

As a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese who have studied some linguistics in college, I find some analysis of the Chinese consonants and vowels in this article very "novel". Some of the description and classification of the phones is definitely not common sense in China. Citations are badly needed.

Also, sometimes it is really difficult to figure out what characters are being discussed. For instance, what characters are [ɥœ̜], [ɥœ̜n], [ɤ], [ɤŋ] and [wɤŋ]? It would be much clearer if the character are written out (preferably in Chinese). (I can't do that because I can't guess out what the characters are.) Betty (talk) 10:47, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

月圆额鞥(pinyin eng)翁 are some examples. These phonetic representations definitely make sense IMO; they seem pretty accurate to me (also a native Chinese speaker). You can't just "intuitively" write 月 as /ɥɛ/ or 翁 as /wəŋ/, as that would be very different from how the characters are actually pronounced (at least in the Beijing dialect). Wyverald (talk) 05:26, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
I didn't say [ɥœ̜], [ɥœ̜n], [ɤ], [ɤŋ] and [wɤŋ] are inaccurately represented. I mentioned them because is it's not very easy to figure out what characters they refer to and it's better to write out the example characters.
When I say citations are needed I refer to claims like "there are only two vowel nuclei in Mandarin". Well that one actually has a reference but everything else in the section does not have any references to back them up. I'm not saying those claims are wrong. I'm just saying more citations are needed. Betty (talk) 10:55, 9 December 2012 (UTC)
Let's take an example. First, if [ɤ] is 额, and this is the Wiki page for [ɤ] It has a sound file, and it does not sound like 额 at all. Second, at another paragraph the article says [ɰʌ] is 饿. So is it because 额 and 饿 have different pronunciations apart from the tone, or two people analyze the same sound differently? Who in what books made those analysis? Many of the claims in the article are not common sense, and sometimes the claims are conflicting, so it is really important to give some references. Betty (talk) 11:50, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

Agreed, it would really help to have examples listed for the sounds. I'm a linguist and can speak some Chinese, and I still have a terrible time making sense out of the chart for the finals. I think the transcriptions are actually quite good (though there's a lot of variation in Mandarin pronunciation), but it's standard practice to give examples of what you're talking about. Also, Betty is right, there should be (a) internal consistency and (b) some type of citation pointing to the source of the standard that this article is supposed to be describing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:21, 11 January 2013 (UTC)


Some people pronounced [v] instead of /w/. Fête (talk) 22:27, 17 December 2012 (UTC)

Missing vowel diphthongs?[edit]

It seems one or more vowel diphthongs (or medials) are missing from the article and chart. Namely, in pinyin the pair "iu", as in liu 六. In IPA I think it looks like /ɪʊ/. (talk) 02:15, 7 January 2013 (UTC)

[w] or [ʷ]?[edit]

Chao (1934) notes that English sway has a consonant sequence, [swei], whereas Mandarin sui has a labialized consonant, [sʷei]. In English the lip rounding follows the /s/, while in Mandarin it is simultaneous. Do people still hold this view? Is medial -w- generally labialization in Chinese? Is there anything similar with medial -y-? — kwami (talk) 00:58, 11 April 2013 (UTC)

Dunno for sure, but I suspect you'd still be understood whichever you do, so it's not really a phonemic issue. From my personal experience, medial -w- can often be just labialization (especially when speaking quickly), and medial -y- can even be lost completely after the alveolo-palatals (I heard this once, not sure when); but I haven't heard it being realized as just [ʲ]. Double sharp (talk) 14:48, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

Consonant section[edit]

Why are both [] and // used in the same table? -- (talk) 15:35, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

Books generally seem to list all these sounds as separate entities, and then do further analysis to show the palatals to be allophones of something else (though not always the same something else), and the glides to be allophones of the high vowels (or vice versa, but the main analysis in this article is that way round). So while the other consonant sounds can be listed as phonemes, i.e. / / , those particular ones shouldn't be, and are therefore placed within [ ] . Someone may have a better suggestion as to how to present it, but for now this way seems quite OK to me. W. P. Uzer (talk) 17:42, 18 August 2014 (UTC)


"In diphthong with [ɪ̯] (note wei often becomes [wiː] when first tone)"

This is just a lazy pronunciation. Reducing a diphthong to a pure vowel is common in many dialects, but this can't be considered standard because this guide doesn't refer to pronunciation by a someone speaking Mandarin with dialectal influence. -- (talk) 16:58, 31 August 2014 (UTC)