Pronouncing certain Mandarin Pinyin consonants

January 13, 2009 at 10:28 am (Languages, Mandarin)

According to the Pinyin system used to transliterate Mandarin, the following letters should be pronounced as follows:
C – ts
Z – dz
Ch – ch
Q – ch
J – j
Zh – j
Sh – sh
X – sh

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Mandarin and Tones

February 26, 2008 at 12:30 am (Languages, Mandarin)

Mandarin is known for having “tones”. We might call them intonations. They determine the pitch and “direction” of the voice of a vowel. For example, in English there is a certain intonation—pitch and direction—at the end of a sentence. A similar intonation exists in Mandarin except rather than being at the end of a question, it can be carried by any vowel in any part of a sentence.

There are five tones:
Tone 1 (example: ē) – marked by a macron, it indicates a high, flat tone.
Tone 2 (example: é) – marked by an acute accent; it indicates a rising tone (like what we use in English at the end of a question), it should end where Tone 1 rests.
Tone 3 (example: ě) – marked by a caron or hacek; it indicates a falling and rising tone, and should end where Tone 1 rests
Tone 4 (example: è) – marked by a grave accent; it indicates a sharp, falling tone.
Tone 5 (example: e) – this is unmarked and is often referred to as a neutral tone; it short and clipped.

In order to demonstrate what a difference the tone can make, let us consider the following which are differentiated only by tone:
妈: mother
麻: hemp
马: horse
骂: to scold or curse
Ma 吗: interrogative particle

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Certain letters in Mandarin transcription: how they are pronounced

February 25, 2008 at 7:29 pm (Languages, Mandarin)

In the accepted transcription of Mandarin Chinese, known as “Pīnyīn” (拼音), certain letters should be explained:
Q is pronounced like English “ch”.
Ch is also pronounced like English “ch” but is a little more emphatic than q
X is pronounced like English “sh”.
Sh is also pronounced like English “sh” but is a little more emphatic than x.
Zh is pronounced like English “j”.
J is also pronounced like English “j” but zh is a little more emphatic than j.

C is pronounced like “ts”.
Z is pronounced like “dz”.
(In other words, z is a voiced equivalent of c.)

More emphatic, respectively: sh, ch, zh
Less emphatic, respectively: x, q, j

So Zhōng guó (中国, “China”) would be roughly “jong-gwoh” and wǔxiá (武侠, “chivalry”) would be roughly “woo-shyah”.

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