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.
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.
ji qi xi zi ci si zhi chi shi ri
In this activity, you’ll have a go at practising your pronunciation of the i sound in combination with some initials. Click on the ‘Listen’ button of the audio player to listen to three pairs of syllables, then record yourself. Press the ‘Record’ button once to start, and then click again when you have finished your recording. Use the ‘Play back’ button to listen to yourself, and then press ‘Listen’ button again to compare it to the model reading. 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.
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. (yě, 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 wǔ.