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Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Mon Oct 07, 2002 7:29 pm
by Carlo Toso
I'm studying putonghua, so I've learnt pinyin, at first, on essays and books.
Now I've got in touch with the chinese community in my city (in Italy).
Most of them are from Shangai - and I'm full of doubts about pronounciation after hearing them speak.
What is the actual pronounciation of the pinyin "R" letter ?(not in "er",though!!!)
How do I read "zh"? And what about "x" ?
They seem to pronounce them quite different to what was described in my books...
Any help ?

Xiexie !!!

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Mon Oct 07, 2002 8:05 pm
by Mark
nonho... lol. If they're speaking guanhua, that's one thing. But if they're all from Shanghai they may be speaking wu.

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Tue Oct 08, 2002 6:09 am
by :-)
Carlos,

The reason why your friends pronounce pinyin differently than from the your books is because Chinese pinyin phonetically represents the sounds spoken only in BeiJing & DongBei (NorthEast/formally Manchuria) China. Some of these sounds are absent from other Mandarin Dialects for example people who speak Western or SouthWestern Mandarin may pronounce "q-" (which comes from the back of the mouth )as "ch-" (which comes from the front of the mouth).

I'll try my best to make "r", "zh" & "x" clear to you. If not...oh well...too bad.

You can pronounce "r" like the American-English "r" so try not to "roll" your Italian tongue. Imagine an American pronouncing Italian words that start with an "r".

The pinyin "zh-" is similar to "j-" in American-English except the back of the tongue is raised against the roof of your mouth to make the sound as you lower your back tongue (meanwhile, the tip of your tongue continuously stays in the "down" position). In constrast, the "j-" sound on the other hand uses the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Many southern Chinese who speak Mandarin can not differentiate this sound difference between pinyin "zh-" & "j-" or pinyin "z-" & "j-".

The "x-" sound is similar to the "hs-" sound or to a lesser atempt "sh-". If you notice when you pronounce "sh-" as in "she", the position of your tongue is similar to the American "j-" which is using the tip of the tongue to make the sound. Now, try raising the back of your tongue against the roof of your mouth (similar to "zh-") to pronouce "she". The word will come out as "hsi-" and that is how "x-" is pronounced in pinyin. Also, many southern Chinese who speak Mandarin can not differentiate this sound difference between pinyin "x-" with "sh-" &/or "s-".

I'm assuming that you must live in either Milano, Roma, or Trieste. I believe the majority of the ethnic-Chinese in Italy are from ZheJiang Province (which is some-what attached to ShangHai but linguistically different just like any other Southern Chinese Province. If you hear them speak Mandarin, there is a good chance that Mandarin is not their native language.

Off the topic, these ZheJiang-Chinese communities (largely from WenZhou) also have a thriving community in the Bellville neighborhood of Paris, France but Cantonese is still the dominant Chinese dialect spoken in Paris with around 100,000 people especially in Place d'Italie district. Cantonese is also the dominant Chinese-dialect in London, England.

Are you much of a fan of Eros Ramazzottii, Irene Grandi, or RAF?

:-)

Clarification

Posted: Tue Oct 08, 2002 6:26 am
by :-)
In my "x-" example above: "she" is pronounced in English not in pinyin.

Sorry about the confusion.

:-)

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Fri Oct 25, 2002 11:39 am
by Polack
Notice that they also pronunce "n" as "l". Southerners are notorious for saying "s" instead of "sh". Buy yourself good tapes or speak like them. You will be an Italian from Shanghai.

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2002 9:10 pm
by Adegilson
Brasil, São Paulo
Gostaria de aprender chinês, o que preciso fazer!

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2002 5:44 pm
by James Campbell
Somebody wrote above that 'q-' comes from the back of the mouth--that's not correct, unless you're speaking Arabic or other languages that use the letter in that manner. In Chinese pinyin, this is an aspirated palatal following a dental, so it's pretty much on the teeth. In comparison, in northern speech, the 'ch' is retroflex, pronounced with the full blade of your tongue pointing straight up to the center of the roof of your mouth.

'x' is like the 'q' except is lacks aspiration and dental stop. Just a palatal 's'.
'j' is like 'x' but it adds the dental stop, so a dentalized 'ts'
'q' is like the 'j' but it adds aspiration, so a dentalized 'ts' with a puff of air, 'tsh'.

'sh' is like the 'ch' described above but with no plosive 't' and no aspiration, similar to 's' in English 'sure' but tongue pointing a little further back. If you pronounce this no so far back or like English 'sh' or even as 's', most people in China will still understand you, and you'll just sound like you have a southern accent, that's all.
'zh' is like the 'sh' but with an added plosive (and retroflex) 't'. Again you can still say 'ts' like a southerner and be understood in most cases.
'ch' is like the 'zh' but with added aspiration. You can say like 'ts-h' and still be understood in most cases.

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Tue Dec 10, 2002 7:04 am
by Willy Wang
Actually,

"x" is pronounced like "sh" in English.
"j" is just pronounced like "j"
"q" is pronounced like "ch" in English.

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Sun Dec 15, 2002 3:12 am
by IronMonkey
In my humble experience, books can give good descriptions about how to pronounce Mandarin, but you really need to hear someone say it. Try to get some tapes or CD's to listen to-many come with the books as part of the course.

Once you get a feel for the standard way of pronouncing these sounds, you'll probably have any easier time recognizing one dialect's pronounciation from another's.

IronMonkey ;)

I can help you pinyin

Posted: Fri Jan 17, 2003 4:53 am
by even
if you have any about pinyin's problem,may be I can help you

You can use this tool

Posted: Tue Jan 21, 2003 3:03 pm
by charlie
MemChinese is a good tool to learn chinese pinyin,strokes,phrases and pronunciation.You can download it from http://www.memchinese.com.Try it !

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2003 6:44 am
by Dr_aggie
James is perfectly right.

However, Some Beijing natives, especially girls occasionally pronounce 'x' as 's' (platal->dental). It is not considered standard though.

It is OK to confuse sh-s, zh-z, ch-s in China. All most everybody can understand mandarin with some southern accent. But in case that many westerners cannot really differentiate x-sh, q-ch and j-zh. I suggest them not make more confusion.

The 'r' is not the same as that of American English. In mandarin, it is not round, but further back.
However, the 'er' (and ar, ir, ur...in oral language) is quite similar to that of American English. In fact, what I know is only Americans (except for northeasterners) and northern Chinese pronouce that sort of sounds.

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 8:21 pm
by aaran
I believe the majority of the ethnic-Chinese in Italy are from ZheJiang Province (which is some-what attached to ShangHai but linguistically different just like any other Southern Chinese Province. If you hear them speak Mandarin, there is a good chance that Mandarin is not their native language.

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:47 pm
by SilverbeamZ
Aaran you are right. This has been my experience as well. I live in a heavily populated part of Italy.

Re: Pronouncing pinyin

Posted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:36 am
by Vasa
"x" is pronounced like "sh" in English.
"j" is just pronounced like "j"
"q" is pronounced like "ch" in English