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Pronouncing 人


Blackfist
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Objection, your honor! The voiced "sh" does work for 人 rén (person), but the initial consonant in words like 如果 rúguǒ (if) does not have the slightest "sh". It's the last word before the refrain in Jay Chou's 困獸之鬥 which I've listened to one million times, and I would have noticed if he said "shu guo" and not "ru guo" :wink:

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Not sure what the deal is with sh and not sh, but please, for the love of whatever, do not take Jay Chou as an example for your pronunciation. Even apart from the slurring that makes that even native speakers can barely understand him, he has a pretty strong Taiwanese accent. Not that there is anything wrong with a Taiwanese accent if that's what you aim for, but standard Mandarin it is not. If you listen to 牛仔很忙 you hear him pronounce 日记 as lh-ji. In the example you post, his r- in 如果 is actually good, but then he makes ruguo sound like rugo. Listen to Teresa Teng instead.

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I know :D Just was trying to make my point about the "r", and this is one of the most prominent examples that came to my mind.

I have fond memories of 牛仔很忙 - that was one of the first songs I heard by Jay, and at that time I didn't know he was infamous for his pronounciation, so I remember looking at the line 不用麻烦了 (bù yòng máfan le) but hearing something like "byoo maffale" and thinking, you'll never understand spoken Chinese. Terrified the heck out of me :wink:

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Interesting: I wrote earlier that I grouped "r" with "z", "c", "s" but clearly that's a function of my having spent time in southern China: instead it seems the grouping is with zh, ch, sh.

Either way, I remember years ago it took me ages and ages to work out "r", if it had been grouped with those other sounds rather than sitting off on its own I hope I would have got it sooner.

I have a feeling I used to think I had no problem with "r" but only with 日. Whenever I said people understood me, and as a beginner is used a lot. As it turned out I had a problem with all the "r" sounds but the only time it was a problem as a beginner was in 日.

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Same experience as realmayo. Was not until I used 日 in China that i discovered that you can get away with a largely English r most of the time, even 热 is usually understandable (not correct but people understand). But not for 日.

Took a lot of practice with a good teacher to get the sound right and I still mess it up at times. But fix your 日 and your r seems to improve across the board.

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The pinyin /r/ initial alternates between [ɻ]~[ʐ]. Period. I hear the two sounds as the 'same' sound and if I am not paying specific attention it would be difficult to pick out exactly which one a person used more often in a conversation with me.

Using "voiced sh" or "x letter from y word in other language" not only creates awkward differences for people with different accents in those languages, but also as imron stated can simply create systematic errors in pronunciation that are hard to break. You also get people misunderstanding completely like Ruben does in #21.

There may be a pattern as to when it's more likely to be [ɻ] or more likely to be [ʐ], but in my experience it is pretty much arbitrary (though I find it physically more demanding to say words like Sweden with the [ɻ] than with the [ʐ]).

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The pinyin /r/ initial alternates between [ɻ]~[ʐ]. Period.

Amen.

I am open to creative suggestions, so I liked the idea of "sh" when I heard it for the first time in this topic. But Imron had a good point there, and after a bit of thinking, I agree making such substitutes is a dangerous path to go.

Using "voiced sh" or "x letter from y word in other language" not only creates awkward differences for people with different accents in those languages, but also as imron stated can simply create systematic errors in pronunciation that are hard to break.

At some places in Germany, they are so daft to teach learners of Japanese to pronounce the Japanese "r" as "d". It is so irritating to hear someone talk about "Mr. Nakamuda" and how "omoshidoi" their effing dessert was. And the crazy thing is, when you ask them, "err, are you aware you are saying Nakamuda?" they insist there is no difference and d and r sound the same :help

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Original poster has vanished. Probably trying to figure out which part of his tongue to put against the back of which tooth while breathing in one nostril and out the other to make this exotic sound.

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I'm so overwhelmed with responses that I don't know what to think. I will say that from listening to it over and over I think that the r in this word sounds exactly like the s in measure as was pointed out by one of the earlier responses.

I understand why it might be dangerous advice to say that ALL r's sound like the s in measure, so that's not the lesson I'm going to take away from this discussion. But I do feel more confident that THIS PARTICULAR R sounds like the s in measure and I'm probably going to go with that for a while. Unless someone can make a convincing argument that the sound is wrong or not close enough and thus will not be understood.

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Skylee, may I ask how you would type 日 rì (sun, day) in a phonetic alphabet like IPA, or how you would describe it? I think I've mastered rén and rè (warm), but rì is killing me :( when saying 日本人, "Japanese (person)", I even resort to saying "örben rén" cause I don't know what else to do.

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Don't worry, skylee, if you tried to tell a speaker of North American English that the "t" in words like "tough", "stand", "matter", and the one in "tree" are all phonetically totally different sounds, I'd wager it'd be news to them too.

As for you, Ruben... try [ʐɨ]. Alternatively just treat the /r/ as a syllabic consonant.

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Perhaps my thinking is too simple (or my pronunciation bad), but if you can say rén, can't you say rì by simply starting to say rén and stopping before you get to the en part? Wouldn't that give you a perfectly good rì?

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Maybe you're right?! I'll try and see. What's confusing me is it sounds (or seems to sound) so extremely different depending on if it's part of a word or alone, at the beginnign of the word or at the end - but maybe that's just my ears.

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As 陳德聰 pointed out, the actual phonetic realization of pinyin 'r' varies between and [ ʐ ] and [ ɻ ], even within a single speaker. If you can pronounce pinyin 'shi' correctly, then you should have absolutely no trouble pronouncing 日 as [ ʐ ]. I can't understand why some of you do not accept the 'ri' = voiced 'shi' explanation - most good books on Putonghua phonetics will tell you just the same. Some phonologists might classify the recalcitrant 'r' as an approximant, since it otherwise wouldn't fit into the "Putonghua has no voiced obstruents" proposition, but this is just a case of 削足适履. That 'r' belongs to the zh, ch, sh series is further evidenced by the pronunciation of some speakers of southern Mandarin (i.e. Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing) who don't differentiate z, c, s and zh, ch, shi, and who thereby pronounce the non-retroflex form of [ ʐ ], which is namely [ z ] as in the English 'zoo', which in turn is simply a voiced [ s ].

I understand that voicing, devoicing, tongue positions, English 'sh'-s and Mandarin 'sh'-s, varying phonetic realizations etc. might come across as overly technical linguistic verbiage, but perfect pronunciation is achived by 1) being a native speaker or bilingual, 2) being extremely gifted in imitating sounds, and, for the rest of us mortals, 3) by acquainting oneself with basic phonetic terminology, understanding the specific articulatory gestures in producing a given sound and lots of practice.

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