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Book Suggestion Wanted: Pronunciation Book with Descriptions of tongue/lip position

Hero Doug

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Does anyone know of a book that really lays out advanced Chinese pronunciation. I'm looking for something that lays everything out in anal detail; illustrations would be a bonus.

A good example is the placment of the tip of the tongue when saying 四 and 次. A small variation and you'll say one of the other.

These are the tips I need. Exact tongue/lip placements and transitions from sound to sound.

If you've come across such a resource plese let me know.


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Yeah, sounds like you may be talking out of the wrong end.

I'm not sure it'll have the level of detail you're looking for, but 汉语语音教程, by 曹文, BLCU (ISBN: 7-5619-1057-6), is the best I've seen. It does have diagrams and descriptions for the sounds at the start, and runs all the way through tone patterns and intonation, so on, with plenty of exercises. See here, it's also mentioned here.

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Here's a picture and some more info. Even if it's not specifically what you're looking for, it's worth picking up for reference purposes. You need to have a reasonable Chinese level to understand it, but as (I think) Carlo said when first recommending it, it does run from the basics right up to advanced stuff. It also covers aspects of pronunciation that general textbooks ignore or skim over - the way neutral tones are affected by the prior tone, the hidden truth about the third tone, etc. I think I've bought three copies over the years - really should learn to hang on to things, but it's all so heavy.

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I like this book: The Sounds of Chinese by Yen-Hwei Lin. See: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sounds-Chinese-Yen-Hwei-Lin/dp/0521603986

It goes through in a very thorough way how all of the sounds in Putonghua should sound, and how they should be made.

It goes into the relevant linguistics but starts from the assumption that its readers know nothing about linguistics. I certainly didn't, but found the explanations very useful.

I'm only half way through but like it a lot: not entertaining, but seems thorough to me and it has changed the way I think about both hearing and trying to pronounce certain Chinese sounds.


Syllabic consonants.

In terms of articulation, the tongue tip stays in the same location within the oral cavity throughout the whole syllable. With the exception of the onset consonant in 日 , the syllable onset consonants in 子 纸 词 吃 四 十 are voiceless, but the nuclear part of the syllable, ie the syllabic consonant, is voiced. To learn how to pronounce these syllabic consonants, you basically prolong the pronunciation of the consonant.

... During the syllabic nuclear phase, there can be a lesser degree of constriction; that is, the tongue tip can be moved slightly away from the teeth or the post-alveolar region at the end of the syllable with little friction.

There's a CD but some CDs were incorrectly formatted so, as it says on the website of perhaps the publisher (?), they are in jumbled order and therefore it's very hard to find the sound you need.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'll second the suggestion for The Sounds of Chinese. It gives a really good complete description of standard mandarin chinese.

You will probably only want to read the first few chapters unless you are interested in the linguistics of Chinese. Some of the latter chapters get fairly dense for someone who has not studied linguistics.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 weeks later...

I'm not sure if this is the best way to accomplish what you want because I did it through trial and error; but maybe I can help for the 'c' sound.

I used ot pronounce 'c' and 's' the same way without knowing it. I found the difference to be the position of the tip of the tounge.

For 's' (as in 四) I place the tounge down near the bottom of my bottom teeth, while for 's' (as in 次) I keep the tip straight; it's placed near the top of the bottom teeth.

I've been told that my pronunciation of both sounds are good.

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Ok, maybe that's my problem.

My copy of Sounds of Chinese came yesterday but I couldn't understand their description of "c". What's really weird is 15 years ago the "z" was my challenge, but I solved that problem because a book said to say it like the English "suds".

And I was pulling back for the "c" because a book said to say it like the English "cats", but in English I was trained to pull back for the s.

So I tried it again according to what you said, and there's a real difference - more hissy sounding. I put my hand in front of my "c" and the tongue is really blocking some not all of the aspiration.

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It's really amazing what a small difference in tounge placement can make isn't it

Really! I thought I was the only one here thinking that. Even books like Sounds of Chinese don't tell you that moving the tongue one nanometer changes everything.

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  • 2 months later...

I recently got 汉语普通话语音图解课本(教师用书). It is a small booklet (part of an entire set) in which all the initials and finals are described (in Chinese, there is IPA for all the sounds as well) and to which illustrations of lip and tongue positions and airflow are given. Really handy for quick reference.

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  • 2 months later...

The easiest rule of thumb I found was the following as described at:


zh, ch, sh, r sounds with your tongue near the roof of your mouth (r is farther back),

j, x, q sounds with your tongue below the bottom front teeth,

z, c, s with your tongue between top and bottom set of teeth.

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