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learn asian languages 學 中文
Pinyin: Part A - Tones 
2nd-Feb-2007 06:46 pm
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Each syllable in Chinese has a tone. In spoken Chinese, changing the tone of a syllable changes its meaning. For instance, "qu" in the 3rd tone means "a man marries a woman", but "qu" in the 4th tone means "to go".

1st tone – high, flat pitch (high tone)
2nd tone – rising from low to high (rising tone)
3rd tone – low-dipping-rising (low tone)
4th tone – falls from high to low (falling tone)

In the Pinyin system, the tone mark is placed above the vowel. If there are two vowels in a final, the tone mark is placed above the first vowel, except that when the first vowel is "i", "u", or "ϋ", the tone mark is placed above the second vowel. Examples: liù, duì, yuán. Chinese characters are not written with tone marks.

The following are the four different tones of "ma": (ps i can’t find the exact mandarin words for the last two) *Listen

mā   妈   mother
má   麻   hemp
mǎ         horse
mà         curse


Neutral Tone

Chinese also has a neutral tone, which has no tone mark and is unstressed. A neutral tone always follows a major-toned syllable and never comes at the beginning of a phrase:

tāde          his       (1st tone followed by a neutral tone)
tāmende   theirs   (1st tone followed by two neutral tones)

A neutral tone is shorter and lighter than major-toned syllables. However there are two levels of pitch for neutral tones, depending on the tone of the previous syllable:

Low neutral tone

When a neutral tone follows a 1st, 2nd, or 4th tone, it is pronounced in a lower pitch:

gēge    elder brother
yéye    grandfather

High neutral tone

When a neutral tone follows a 3rd tone, it is pronounced in a higher pitch:

jiějie            elder sister
wǎnshang    evening


Tone Changes

(one), (seven), (eight), (no) can have several different tones. Keep in mind that:

1. can have three different tones: 1st (when used alone)
    2nd (when before a 4th tone) or
    4th (when before a 1st, 2nd or 3rd tone)

2. and each can have two tones: 1st tone or 2nd tone (when followed by a 4th tone).

3. 不 (no) can be 4th tone or 2nd tone (when followed by a 4th tone).

3+3 ----> 2+3

If a 3rd tone is followed by another 3rd tone, the first 3rd tone is pronounced as a 2nd tone although the printed tone mark does not change:

nǐ hǎo ----> ní hǎo         Hello! How do you do!
hěn měi ----> hén měi   very beautiful

Half – 3rd Tone

When a 3rd tone is followed by a 1st, 2nd, or 4th tone, the 3rd tone is pronounced as a half - 3rd tone (which only falls but does not rise), although the printed tone mark does not change:

měitiān    every day
Měiguó    America
mǎipiào   buy a ticket


Syllable Division Marks

When a syllable beginning with "a", "o", or "e" follows another syllable and could cause confusion about how the syllables should be divided, an apostrophe (‘) is added in front of the second syllable.

For example, Xī’ān (西安 a city name), might be confused with xiān (先 first).

Each of the three components of a Chinese syllable – initial, final, and tone – is important. Incorrect pronunciation of any component can result in misunderstanding. Pay careful attention to each syllable’s tone and practice the tones now, at the very beginning of your study of Chinese. Doing so will give you a solid foundation for effective communication in Chinese.

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Comments 
3rd-Feb-2007 03:29 am (UTC)
Ohh.. I found this very useful thx :)
Always had problems with tone. But still kinda hard to decide and control. Shouldnt there be like a symbol for tone :S... or mayb thats a stupid thing to say haha sorry! hehe
3rd-Feb-2007 07:03 pm (UTC)
heya, thnx for the feedback. Am just taking stuff from a book i got and am still trying to upload more stuff. So the community is not quite done yet hehe. But erm, what do you mean by "a symbol for tone"?

Btw the community is set up to each other with chinese show don't worry about asking anything you think is stupid cause it might just be helpful *^_^* Besides i don't know anything haha.
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