Learn Chinese in China
Apollys

2nd tone at the end of a sentence

36 posts in this topic

I have noticed a bit of a pattern in the audio samples I've been working with so far, and I'm wondering if this is something others have acknowledged too, is an acceptable or standard practice, and if perhaps there is a deeper pattern going on here than the simple one I have observed.

When a second tone concludes a sentence, I have noticed that it will often be pronounced in a neutral manner, or even slightly falling as if it were a third time. I'm guessing that this is one example of perhaps many in which tones are not as strict as textbooks would have us believe, but are subject to the speaker's emotions in a similar manner to that of other languages, however with much subtler manifestations.

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I normally pronounce 2nd tone words as 2nd tone words if they're the last word in the sentence, I don't notice people changing the tone to a slightly neutral tone, although if you're talking about words like 了,的,呢.... those words normally carries a flat tone. 

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Example please~

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It's certainly true that the pronunciation of each tone is affected by where it is in the sentence, because Chinese has sentence-level intonation. But it's important that they always retain their character that distinguishes them from the other tones. So the second tone at the end of a sentence doesn't become a neutral tone per se. It just becomes a sort of "sentence final second tone" which sounds different than a sentence final neutral tone, and also different from a second tone somewhere else in the sentence. Native speakers will just hear it as a second tone every time without thinking about it. So, I would say, do try to imitate what you hear in recordings but try to keep the mental association that it's still a second tone.

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Great response eddyf

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Haven't come across my examples from the Anki deck again yet, but here's one I stumbled across https://youtu.be/TBdRYkTp8Kw?t=7m20s.  所以我觉得我很幸福.  What do you guys think of the pronunciation of 幸福?

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I think you're onto something. The 福 in 我很幸福 certainly sounds more like a neutral tone than how it sounds in 你幸福吗?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0__TiysorUM

 

I caught out my teacher pronuncing 来 at the end of the sentence with the netural tone: 背下来。

She said it is because the 来 here is not very important. 背 is the most important part the sentence so it has the emphasis placed on it, leaving 来 being unimportant with no emphasis hence pronounced with a neutral tone.

 

But that's not consistent with the neutral tone of 福 in 所以我很幸福 where 幸福 could be said to be the most important part of the sentence.

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Praat says it's a short falling tone which then quickly rises for I don't know I guess a short glottal at the end?

The 福 sound is captured in the red zone:

 

post-4446-0-66432000-1484064198_thumb.jpg

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To me I hear 福 as the slightly falling part and the high part as a "micro-laugh" which I wouldn't classify as part of the word itself (I tend to do this a lot myself).  That's just how my brain processes it anyway.

 

Edit: 林振蒲 I watched the video you linked, ahahaha  :D

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Here's one that really really makes me think tones are a super gray area in Chinese and people don't really follow them except for a few emphasized words in a sentence.  The highlighted portion of the screenshot is 国 (full sentence: 他从英国来).

post-67915-0-47921900-1484165620_thumb.png

来.mp3

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That's not to downplay the importance of learning tones, though.

The first stage of learning tones is learning the tones. The second stage of learning tones is learning how to use them more like Chinese people do, to make your speech more natural.

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If you keep watching the video, this speaker consistently pronounces second tones in non-initial syllables as low falling wiggly tones.

It does not sound to me like a neutral tone, the way I would expect someone to pronounce 背下來 as a neutral tone (LinZhenPu this is actually pretty standard). I am not particularly good at placing accents, but she consistently pronounces 牛犢 more like 牛肚 and various other words in a similar pattern, even when trying to enunciate, she does this: 違背者重罰(fã)

The relationship between the second tone in Standard Chinese and falling or low squiggly tones in other Chinese languages is pretty strong, so without actually looking into this in a more research-y way, my first instinct would be more to put this in the regional accents box rather than the systematic phonological change box.

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Well I'm hearing it an awful lot.  In the Spoonfed Chinese Anki deck, it's absolutely everywhere - I would go as far as to say it's more frequent to hear second tones pronounced in this roughly falling manner than as actual rising tones at the end of sentences, out of all the audio I have encountered in this deck so far.  Maybe the speakers for the deck aren't using the most standard Mandarin speech, I dunno...

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@Apollys

The sentences that you come across, do they sound natural?

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Sure, they sound natural enough to me, but who the hell am I to really answer that question?

 

I'll keep track of the next handful of such sentences I come across and throw them up here (with audio recordings) in a post sometime this weekend.

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Sure, they sound natural enough to me, but who the hell am I to really answer that question?

....

I am sure you are better than me.

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I would go as far as to say it's more frequent to hear second tones pronounced in this roughly falling manner than as actual rising tones at the end of sentences

 

I think you're describing basically a feature of Standard Chinese.

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So we've got one vote for Standard Chinese pattern and one vote for regional accents. The plot thickens.

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Indeed it does and I'm really curious to see where this goes. Are you in China now?

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So we've got one vote for Standard Chinese pattern and one vote for regional accents.

 

I'm not sure that's true. I wouldn't be surprised if 陳德聰 is correct that the speaker in the video might occasionally speak in a manner influenced by a non-standard accent.

 

But there is a broader point about how tone is pronounced in an unstressed syllable which follows a stressed syllable, and this point applies to Standard Chinese. That's what I'm referring to. And because I do not think that the bulk of the audio in the spoonfed deck you refer to is non-standard, I think this broader point is relevant.

 

A quick google for [ chinese tones non-stressed ] brings plenty of results.

 

One of which is http://conf.ling.cornell.edu/plab/paper/wpcpl8-Moore.pdf which produces the attached diagram showing how unstressed second tones sound, depending on the tone of the preceding syllable. As I understand it, the first of the four entries is the tail-end of the previous, stressed syllable. So the top line in the graph shows the very end of a stressed second tone, followed by an unstressed second tone that follows it: you can see that the latter actually gets lower, not higher; it falls, doesn't rise.

 

I don't think this is at all surprising. People don't speak like robots or textbooks. But textbooks for beginners aren't going to waste time teaching this.

 

Basically, different tonal rules apply when a syllable is not stressed.

 

post-4446-0-94880300-1484478436_thumb.jpg

 

Edit: so according to the diagram: a second tone doesn't rise if it's an unstressed syllable following a stressed syllable, unless that first stressed syllable is third tone.

(well, admittedly it's shown dipping and then rising slightly after a fourth tone)

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Here's another good example: 窦文涛, the host of 锵锵三人行, saying:  咱们讲公民,我现在越来越觉得,公民这个词......

 

gm2.mp3

 

I'd be interested if anyone would consider listening to the audio first and assessing how the two 公民s appear to be toned.

 

When I heard it I thought I immediately thought the first 公民 has mín rising as a normal second tone, but that the second 公民 had its mín as not rising at all.

 

But according to Praat (which I'm no expert in and therefore I might be misusing) both instances of mín are very far from the textbook 'rising', as shown in the attached picture.

 

The difference appears to be that the first first mín is longer than the second. But on first hearing it, I could have sworn that the first one was a normal rising second tone, and the second one wasn't.

 

How do they sound to others?

 

post-4446-0-16390500-1484488919_thumb.jpg

 

 

I should make clear that none of this is about so-called neutral or atonal syllables like 了. Although I wonder: is there a north/south difference with words like 春天, 公民: would northerners generally pronounce the second syllables neutral? Or partially neutralised? Or is something else going on?

 

 

On reflection, I think this is simply a case of 轻声 being much more widely practised in real life than it is in textbooks.

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What's interesting to me is that if we look at the first time the speaker said 民, we can divide the final up into two clearly different vowel sounds.  This segmentation then roughly divides the sound into a portion with a falling pitch and a portion with a constant pitch.  This is something that I've noticed in a very rough and general way throughout my Mandarin studies, viz, that Mandarin speakers may find it natural to speak different sounds with different pitch contours.  I've also encountered examples of rising tones pronounced as falling-rising, where the division occurs at the vowel change.

 

And there's a more basic example, which is the way native speakers pronounce third tones (in isolation).  Now, when I read about the idea of what a third tone is, the question came up, well, how does the sound that I'm making over time align with the frequency curve?  Is 雪 pronounced xu\ - e/, or do I say the whole sound "xue" in a low slightly falling tone and then use that final vowel sound to rise again?  My instinct was to pronounce the whole sound in the first half-third tone, then use the final sound to rise (naturally, this makes sense because it transposes most easily to natural speech when you chop of that rising tail).  However, the other day I was talking to my girlfriend and said a word in that style, and she immediately said that was weird; I should say it the way she does (e.g. as described before, "xu" downwards, then "e" upwards).

 

So, I seem to have gotten a bit excited... If we get back to the example at hand, I definitely hear a falling tone on the supposed "second"' tone in that example you gave in both cases, and I think you are absolutely correct that we should focus on the fact that unstressed tones are everywhere (especially given the growing two-character footprint in Mandarin), and we really have to categorize unstressed tones in a separate category from their stressed counterparts in order to accurately analyze spoken Mandarin.

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Another issue is whether these are in fact 'neutralised' or just 'semi-neutralised' ... that is, is how they are pronounced in this unstressed position influenced by the tone that they ought to have normally. For example in these circumstances would the second syllable in each of 公民 and 春天 have exactly the same tone?

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I would say unstressed is a completely different category from neutral.

 

I'm investigating some more examples and seeing a lot of second tones that show up as dipping tones - a slight fall then a slight rise.  (Will the real third tone please stand up?)  In unstressed or mostly unstressed positions though, IIRC.

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For me;

 

公民 was pronounced gōngmín both times on the mp3.

 

The second syllables in 公民 and 春天 never have the same tone.

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