Chapter 2:Chinese syllable, meaning, and word (2)

Updated:Sat, Oct 20, 2012 23:29 PM     Related:Chinese syllables

One of the features of Chinese is that each syllable is associated with a meaning. Word-specific tone changes in Chinese: there are certain tone changes that occur in specific Chinese words.

 

3. Word-specific tone changes

In addition to the tone changes mentioned in Chapter 1 for all third-tone syllables, there are certain tone changes that occur in specific words.

3.1 Tone change in the word 不 bù

bù changes to bú when it occurs before another fourth-toned syllable in the same word, phrase, or breath group:

  4–4 2-4
不对

not correct
Bù duì Bú duì
不必

need not
bù  bì bú  bì

3.2 Tone change in the numbers yī 1, qī 7, and bā 8

The tone of the numbers yī 1, and, less commonly, qī 7, and bā 8 may change to second tone yí, qí, and bá before a fourth-toned syllable in the same word, phrase, or breath group:

  1-4 --> 2-4
一共 altogether yī gòng --> yí gòng
一定 certainly yī dìng --> yí dìng
一辈子 a lifetime yī bèi zi --> yí bèi zi
七块钱 seven dollars qī kuài qián--> qí kuài qián
八倍 eight fold bā bèi --> bá bèi

In addition, yī changes to fourth tone before syllables with first, second, or third tone.

 

  1-2 --> 4-2
一张 altogether yī zhāng --> yì zhāng
一条 certainly yī tiáo --> yì tiáo
一碗 a lifetime yī wǎn --> yì wǎn

4. Change to neutral tone

In Beijing and northern China, certain syllables lose their original tone and are pronounced as neutral tone. This tone change does not occur in Taiwan, where all syllables retain their original tones.

The complete conditions for change to neutral tone are complex, but here are some general rules for the change of a second syllable to neutral tone.

• The second syllable is a repetition of the first syllable:

 

  tone-tone --> tone-neutral
太太 Mrs. tàitài --> tàitai
弟弟 Yonger brother dìdì --> dìdi

• The second syllable is a suffix that does not contribute a meaning to the word. This includes the suffix 子 zǐ, and the directional suffixes 头 tóu, 面miàn, and 边biān:

    tone-tone --> tone-neutral
孩子 child háizǐ   -->     háizi
里面 inside lǐtóu   -->        lǐtou

• The meaning of the second syllable is the same as or overlaps with the meaning of the first syllable:

    tone-tone --> tone-neutral
衣服  clothing yīfú    -->       yīfu
  衣 yī clothing 服 fú clothing  
事情 matter/situation shìqíng       -->       shìqing
事 shì situation 情 qíng situation  

The second syllable retains its tone when it adds to and expands the meaning of the first syllable. Examples include:

学期
xuéqī xué
semester study interval
     
做法
zuòfǎ zuò
method of doing do method
     
看完
kànwán kàn wán
finish reading read finish

 

Source:HugChina

 

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