第一章 拼音介绍和语调 introduction and tones

Chapter 1 Introduction of PINYIN

Pinyin is essential and most fundamental knowledge for all serious Chinese learners. If you are learning Chinese, no matter if you are a beginner or an advanced learner, you shall be aware of paramount importance of Pinyin. Good knowledge in Pinyin can greatly help you express yourself more clearly; it can also help you in archiving better listening comprehension. Before learning how to read, write, or pronounce Chinese characters, you must learn pinyin first.

Pinyin or Pin Yin is a short for Hanyu Pinyin, which literally means “spelled sound” (phonetics). Pin means “spelling” and Yin means “sound”. Pinyin is a system of Romanization (phonemic notation and transcription to Roman script) for Mandarin Chinese. Pinyin was approved in 1958 and adopted in 1979 by the government in the People’s Republic of China.

Since then, Pinyin has been accepted by the Government of Singapore, the Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and most international institutions as the preferred transcription system for Mandarin Chinese. In 1979 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as the standard Romanization for modern Chinese (ISO-7098:1991).

Pinyin uses Roman letters to represent sounds in Mandarin Chinese. The way these letters represent sounds in Mandarin Chinese differs from how other languages that use the Roman alphabet represent sound. Pinyin uses the same letters as the English alphabet except for the letter v plus the addition of ū. Al l of the consonants represent basically the same sound that they have in English with some exceptions. For example, the sounds indicated in Pinyin by ‘b’ and ‘p’ are distinguished from each other by aspiration in a manner different from that of both English, which has voicing and aspiration, and of French, which has voicing alone. Other letters like ’j’, ‘q’, ‘x’ or ‘zh’ indicate sounds that do not correspond to any exact sound in English. Some of the transcriptions in Pinyin such as ‘ang’, do not correspon d to English pronunciation, either. Pinyin has also become a useful tool for entering Chinese language text into computers.

Tips for Learning Pinyin.

Chinese is not a phonetic language. Chinese pronunciation is not related to the writing of Chinese characters. “Pinyin“, “Hanyu Pinin” or “Chinese Pinyin” is a way to use Roman letters to represent the pronunciation of the Chinese characters.

Pinyin does not represent English pronunciation and should not be pronounced according to English conventions. You are advised to learn Pinyin phonetic conventions, bearing in mind that many sounds have no equivalents in English.

Since Pinyin is based only on the sounds of Mandarin Chinese, Pinyin is unsuitable for use for speakers of some other Chinese spoken dialects, because the sounds do not correspond to their speech.

There are many homonyms in mandarin Chinese. Pinyin can be ambiguous, especially when transcribing Standard Written Chinese, which uses formal constructions not often found in speech. However, this should not be an issue in the transcription of normal spoken Mandarin conversation since speakers would not use such ambiguous constructions in speech.

One more important note on Pinyin is that each syllable represents one character, because each character in Chinese has only one syllable.

When learning Chinese Pinyin and the tones, we recommend you pronounce LOUDLY with the recording each time you hear one.

Pinyin is the basic foundation for learning Chinese. Are you on the right track for learning Chinese? If you develop a bad pronunciation habit, it will be very difficult to make a correction.

In “Pin Yin”, we talked about why Chinese Pinyin is so critical for learning Chinese, and why to learn Pinyin first is a must to build a solid pronunciation foundation for your listening and speaking skills. To start learning Mandarin Chinese language from pinyin is compulsory in Chinese schools and basically, every Chinese in Mainland China starts learning pinyin from kindergarten (5-6 years old).

In Chinese, each character corresponds to one syllable. Chinese syllables consist of three elements: initial sound, final sound and tone. The initial sounds are consonants and the final sounds contain at least one vowel. Some syllables consist only of an initial sound or a final sound.

Mandarin Chinese language has 21 consonants and 35 vowels. The initial and final sounds make a total of 56 basic sounds. Combinations of initials and finals plus the special cases result in more than 400 mono-syllabic sounds. Applying the four tones of Mandarin Chinese to this, we get a total of around 1,600 unique syllables. Pronunciation of Mandarin has two aspects: syllables and tones. Each can be practiced separately, but when it comes to speaking Mandarin Chinese you must memorize words with their proper tones.

Chapter 2

What are the Chinese tones?

In English, tones are used to indicate whether a sentence is a statement or a question. Changing the tone in English will change the mood or the emphasis of the sentence, but not the meaning of the sentence. Chinese sentences apply the same rules.

However, Chinese is a tonal language; each Chinese character has a tone. Each pinyin syllable in Chinese can have 5 possible ways to pronounce by varying the tone (pitch). There are four tones and neutral tone (toneless) in Mandarin Chinese. One syllable, pronounced in different tones will usually mean different things. Comparing with English, which only has rising tone and falling tone, Chinese has four tones including flat tone, rising tone, falling-rising tone and falling tone. This fact makes the Chinese Tone Training a fundamentally important part of any serious Chinese learners. Since even you can pronounce the pinyin of a Chinese character correctly, if you do not master tones, Chinese speakers will not understand you.

Learning Chinese pronunciation is the toughest part. Do not worry! With this 21 day pinyin crash course, you shall get familiar with pinyin and mastering it very quickly!

Focus from Day 1 – Tones

Since tones are the most difficult part for Chinese learners, we focus the tones from day 1 in this Pinyin Crash Course. We will practice tones every day in the 21 day’s Pinyin Crash Course.

Tone marks

In Chinese it is always very important to pronounce characters and words with correct tone. In transliterated Chinese, tone markings are written over the central vowels in most syllables. Some syllables have no specific tone, and then no sign is put above any vowel, or called neutral tone. In Mandarin Chinese there are four tones and a neutral tone.

?The 1st tone, flat tone is marked with a line over a vowel such as “a” + “-” = “ā”.

?The 2nd tone, rising tone is marked with a rising line over a vowel such as “a” + “′” = “á”.

?The 3rd tone, falling-rising tone is marked with a hook over a vowel such as “a” + “v” = “?”.

?The 4th tone, falling tone is marked with a falling line over a vowel such as “a” + “`” = “à”.

?For neutral tone also called toneless tone (called “light sound” in Chinese), no marking is put above any vowel.

For example, “a” + ” ” = “a”.

Using numbers to indicate the tones

In addition to use tone marks, Pinyin uses numbers to indicate the tones.

Pronunciation Guide

The following is the example of ‘a’ with tone marks.

?First tone: a1 or ā

?Second tone: a2 or á

?Third tone: a3 or ǎ

?Fourth tone: a4 or à

The following table describes 4 tones and the neutral tone marking the sound “a”.

Tone Pinyin Description

1st āflat tone

2nd árising tone

3rd ǎfalling-rising tone

4th àfalling tone

Neutral a no tone

Each tone has a distinctive pitch contour which can be graphed as bellow.

Tone Exercise

Tone Exercise 1: Tone Combination Drill

In this exercise, we will combine first tone syllables with the second, third, and fourth tones.

Listen to the audio first, and then repeat.

1. ā á ǎ à

2. á ǎ à ā

3. ǎ à ā á

4. à ǎ á ā

Tone Exercise 2: Tongue Twister Drill

Listen to the tongue twisters below. Try to mimic the sound as closely as possible.

Pinyin:mā mā qí mǎ mǎ màn mā mā mà mǎ

Chinese characters:妈妈骑马, 马慢, 妈妈骂马. M om rides a horse. The horse goes slowly. Mom scolds the horse.

What are the Chinese tones?

In English, tones are used to indicate whether a sentence is a statement or a question. Changing the tone in English will change the mood or the emphasis of the sentence, but not the meaning of the sentence. Chinese sentences apply the same rules.

However, Chinese is a tonal language; each Chinese character has a tone. Each pinyin syllable in Chinese can have 5 possible ways to pronounce by varying the tone (pitch). There are four tones and neutral tone (toneless) in Mandarin Chinese. One syllable, pronounced in different tones will usually mean different things. Comparing with English, which only has rising tone and falling tone, Chinese has four tones including flat tone, rising tone, falling-rising tone and falling tone. This fact makes the Chinese Tone Training a fundamentally important part of any serious Chinese learners. Since even you can pronounce the pinyin of a Chinese character correctly, if you do not master tones, Chinese speakers will not understand you.

Learning Chinese pronunciation is the toughest part. Do not worry! With this 21 day pinyin crash course, you shall get familiar with pinyin and mastering it very quickly!

Focus from Day 1 – Tones

Since tones are the most difficult part for Chinese learners, we focus the tones from day 1 in this Pinyin Crash Course. We will practice tones every day in the 21 day’s Pinyin Crash Course.

Tone marks

In Chinese it is always very important to pronounce characters and words with correct tone. In transliterated Chinese, tone markings are written over the central vowels in most syllables. Some syllables have no specific tone, and then no sign is put above any vowel, or called neutral tone. In Mandarin Chinese there are four tones and a neutral tone.

?The 1st tone, flat tone is marked with a line over a vowel such as “a” + “-” = “ā”.

?The 2nd tone, rising tone is marked with a rising line over a vowel such as “a” + “′” = “á”.

?The 3rd tone, falling-rising tone is marked with a hook over a vowel such as “a” + “v” = “?”.

?The 4th tone, falling tone is marked with a falling line over a vow el such as “a” + “`” = “à”.

?For neutral tone also called toneless tone (called “light sound” in Chinese), no marking is put above any vowel.

For example, “a” + ” ” = “a”.

Using numbers to indicate the tones

In addition to use tone marks, Pinyin uses numbers to indicate the tones.

Pronunciation Guide

The following is the example of ‘a’ with tone marks.

?First tone: a1 or ā

?Second tone: a2 or á

?Third tone: a3 or ǎ

?Fourth tone: a4 or à

The following table describes 4 tones and the neutral tone marking the sound “a”.

Tone Pinyin Description

1st āflat tone

2nd árising tone

3rd ǎfalling-rising tone

4th àfalling tone

Neutral a no tone

Each tone has a distinctive pitch contour which can be graphed as bellow.

Tone Exercise

Tone Exercise 1: Tone Combination Drill

In this exercise, we will combine first tone syllables with the second, third, and fourth tones.

Listen to the audio first, and then repeat.

1. ā á ǎ à

2. á ǎ à ā

3. ǎ à ā á

4. à ǎ á ā

Tone Exercise 2: Tongue Twister Drill

Listen to the tongue twisters below. Try to mimic the sound as closely as possible.

Pinyin:mā mā qí mǎ mǎ màn mā mā mà mǎ

Chinese characters:妈妈骑马, 马慢, 妈妈骂马.

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