The Chinese Pronunciation Wiki

02 Apr 2015

For years, I’ve had a few sections on Sinosplice for pronunciation:

Pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese: Setting the Record Straight
The Process of Learning Tones
Mandarin Chinese Tone Pair Drills

(Notably absent: tone change rules)

I’ve also blogged about pronunciation many times, but I didn’t feel like a blog is the best way to organize all this information, and these days I’m putting most of my time into growing AllSet Learning rather than reorganizing Sinosplice.

The Chinese Grammar Wiki has turned out to be a hugely successful experiment, and in about three years has become the internet’s favorite reference for Chinese grammar issues online. Our work is by no means finished there; the Chinese Grammar Wiki continues to grow.

Chinese Pronunciation Wiki Screen Shot

But it’s now time to bring a bunch of scattered information together in the same way we did for grammar, but this time for pronunciation. We’ve started the Chinese Pronunciation Wiki, and it’s still in its early days, but the foundation is strong.

One of the key concepts behind the site which I believe is missing in many current courses and resources with regards to pronunciation is a clear idea of what to focus on, when. Remember: mastery of Chinese pronunciation is a long-term endeavor. Take it step by step.

We’re doing a soft launch of the site this week, and will do a more public launch next week. I’d love to get some early feedback.

A few notes on what we’ve got so far:

– We aim to keep beginner explanations simple, without resorting to linguistic jargon. Full linguistic description for those who want it is part of the longer-term plan.
– Many pages still need to be fleshed out, but for now, the pinyin chart, pinyin quick start guide, tone change rules, and erhua pages are already quite useful
– I’m interested to hear what higher-level learners and native speakers think about our page on Chinese accents (which can be quite a hurdle for learners)
– Images/illustrations are coming
– I have tons of ideas for higher-level pronunciation topics, but we have to cover the basics first

Thank you for your support of the Chinese Pronunciation Wiki, everybody! There will be more news and an official announcement next week.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Rafa 穆凡 Says: April 2, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Awesome! I love the Grammar Wiki and now 发音!my favourite! yay!

    Although many Beijingers claim that erhua is their thing, I think Dongbei ren use it even more.

    For example a Beijing ren won’t add erhua in names like 西直门,but Dongbei ren might say 西直门儿,of course if you are to say 南门 I think in this case maybe both Beijinger and Dongbei would use erhua.

    If I’m not wrong I think erhua comes from the influence of some Manchurian language or dialect from Northeast China, I think I’ve heard something like that before.

    There’s something else that I have noticed about the initial “y”, words like 英语 in the north is more like a
    [ j] sound while in the south is more like a [i] only, which is taking me time to get used to it now that I live in Zhejiang.

    Also there is this thing with the initial “n” in some words the north that sound almost like a “ñ” as in español.

    Before I used to get irritated by 女国音,I think it’s very 嗲,but now that I left the 京,I kinda miss that.

    I find hilarious that in Central China like Sichuan, Chongqing, Hunan, Hubei, some people no matter how good their putonghua is, they just can’t make the difference between “n” and “l”.

    I’m looking forward to read more about pronunciation in Intermediate and Advance levels, about stress in words and sentences, intonation, pauses, speech flow, I think imitation takes a very important role in mastering this things especially if you want to sound like a Chinese.

    When I was learning Italian, I “didn’t want to sound like an Italian guy” but they have a lot of double consonants like “donna” (woman) , or “penne” (feather), and because we don’t have double consonants in Spanish instead of “feather” I kept saying… another thing, and it wasn’t until I started imitating (moderately) Italian people that I could properly say this double consonants words, I think that has helped me a lot with my Chinese pronunciation.

  2. Great work on the wikis. I often wished such resources existed back when I was studying a decade ago!

    I do have one piece of feedback. You wrote:
    “Initial n- pronounced as l-” for Fujian dialect.

    In my experience “Initial n- pronounced as l-” is common in Taiwan as well. I would also add “Initial r- pronounced as l-“. E.g. “Yī ge lén

  3. Great stuff. Clarity on na3li3 vs na3li would be useful.

  4. Jon Nicklin Says: April 14, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Great work John, wish all this was available when I was learning!

    I think it would be really valuable to have a page for words which are commonly pronounced differently from their dictionary value such as shou2xi1 for 熟悉, dei3 for 逮 etc. This really threw me when I was learning Mandarin.

    On the subject of erhua, having travelled to several provinces in China (Hebei, Shanxi, Dongbei, Anhui, Zhejiang, Hubei), I still think the place I learnt Chinese, Tangshan (唐山) has the most erhua, they even put erhua on count words such as ping (瓶) and kun (捆)!

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