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Getting started with Chinese 1
Getting started with Chinese 1

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6 Pronunciation

In Week 1, you learnt some Pinyin initials, such as j, z, x, zh, g, h, n, b and single vowel finals, a, o, e, i, u and ü. Here you will learn some more initials and the pronunciation of i when it follows certain initials. Furthermore, you will understand the spelling conversions for i and u.

Initials

In Pinyin most of the consonant sounds are pronounced similarly to their equivalents in English.

Try to pronounce the following initials below, following the explanations given.

c        similar to ts in ‘cheats or ‘meets

s        as s in ‘sit’

ch       similar to the ch in ‘church’ and ‘match (with the tip of the tongue curled)

sh       similar to the sh in ‘English and ‘wish (with the tip of the tongue curled)

q        similar to the ch in ‘cheese’ and ‘cheek

The pronunciation of i

Note that when z, c, s, zh, ch, sh and r precede the single final i, i is not pronounced the same way as it is after j, q and x. It is a short vowel extension of the initials preceding it.

Click here to listen to how the variant of i is pronounced after j, q, x, z, c, s, zh, ch, sh and r when it is a short vowel extension of these initials. Repeat after each syllable.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: lxc001_wk2_act_aud016.mp3
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Activity 9

In this activity, you’ll have a go at practising your pronunciation of the i sound in combination with some initials. Listen to the audios and repeat them. Press ‘Start recording’ and play back your recording then compare it with the original. Listen, record and listen again. Read the transcript, if you need to. You can record yourself as many times as you wish; your last recording will be saved.

Now, listen, record and listen again to the following three pairs of syllables.

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Spelling conventions

In Pinyin, there are various spelling conventions to be aware of when writing compound finals, depending on the combination of finals and initials. Here are some of the rules that apply to the syllables you have met so far.

Spelling conventions for i

  • When there is no initial before a compound final starting with i, replace the i with a y: e.g. ie → ye. (, also)
  • When the single final i is a syllable on its own, y must be added in front of it: e.g. the number one is yī.

Spelling conventions for u

  • When there is no initial before a compound final starting with u, replace u with w: e.g. uo → wo. (wǒ, I/me)
  • When the single final u is a syllable on its own, w must be added in front of the u: e.g. the number five is .