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learn asian languages 學 中文
Pinyin: Part A - Initials 
1st-Feb-2007 09:19 pm
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Initials are similar to consonants in English, but English consonants can appear anywhere in a word, not just at the beginning. Initials are always placed at the beginning of a syllable. They can be divided into six groups based on their phonetic characteristics.

b, p, m, f (Labials)

Formed using the lips. Pronounced the same as in English.

b-   p-   m-   f-      *Listen


d, t, n, l (Dentals)

Formed with the tongue touching or near the back of the upper teeth. Pronounced the same as in English.

d-   t-   n-   l-     *Listen


g, k, h (Velars)

Formed from the throat. "G" and "k" are the same as in English, but "h" is slightly more guttural or aspirated than the English "h" and more like the German "ch" in "ach".

g-   k-   h-     *Listen

The pronunciation of the next three groups usually requires extra attention by English speakers.


j, q x (Frontals)

Formed with the tip of the tongue directly against the back of the lower teeth. Unlike English, the tip of the tongue does not touch the roof of the mouth. The tongue curves, with its upper front surface touching just behind the ridge behind the upper teeth. The lips must be tight and pulled widely apart, as in a forced smile.

*Listen

Frontal
Pronoucation
Example
j-
ji, jee,gee
Jimmy, jeep
q-
chee
cheese, chip
x-
shee
ship, sheer


z, c, s (Aveolars)

Formed with the tip of the tongue touching or near the base of the lower teeth and with the upper teeth in contact with the upper front surface of the tongue. Be alert to avoid the tendency of some English speakers to pronounce "c" incorrectly as "k" (instead of as "ts").

*Listen

Aveolar
Pronoucation
Example
z-
z, dz, ds
kids, woods
c-
ts
its, cats, rats
s-
(same as English)
sense, step


zh, ch, sh, r (Retroflexes)

Formed with the tip of the tongue rolled upward and touching the roof of the mouth. When you say "r" in Chinese the lips should be less open than in English. You will feel the air vibrating around your tongue. Your lower jaw is thrust slightly forward.

*Listen

Retroflex
Pronoucation
Example
zh-
dj
bridge
ch-
ch
Chat
sh-
sh
shore
r-
cross between "j" and "r"
no English equivalent


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