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Should the neutral tone follow the first tone?


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My teacher pronounces the neutral tone as if it continues the first tone.


e.g. "shenme" the entire word is rising, as if one large second tone. Like "shenme???"


But online pronunciations of the word I've found only rise "shen" and then me sounds lower again. Like "shen?me"

Actually, some even sound fourth tone instead of neutral tone. "ren2me" sounds like "ren2me4". Tone lowering again during the neutral vowel.


Which one is correct? Does the neutral tone extend the first tone?

Or should it be separate? If separate, on which height should it be pronounced?

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To be accurate, it is neither a first tone nor a fourth tone. It is usually flat in contour (it doesn't rise or dip like tones 2,3,4), however the pitch depends on the previous syllable.


After a first tone, it is generally a bit lower in pitch.

After the second tone is generally around the same pitch that the second tone ended on (which means it can sound quite similar to a first tone.)

After a third tone, it is slightly higher in pitch.

After a fourth tone, it is more or less the pitch where the fourth tone ended.


It is helpful to remember the neutral tone as a kind of de-emphasised 'continuation' of the pitch of the previous tone.

Of course, individual variation and dialect probably influences the exact realisation of the neutral tone, but in standard Mandarin it shouldn't really sound like a 4th tone which has quite a sharp drop.

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Interesting, thank you!


Sorry, when I said "extend the first tone", I meant the first tone of the word (be it 1, 2, 3 or 4th). Not the actual tone 1. ^_^;


My teacher has a habit of pronouncing the neutral tone WITH the tone before it.


e.g. "ni3men" is pronounced with with "ni" falling, then "men" rising. Not like "ni" fall and rise, then "men" briefly in the pitch where "ni" ended.

"shen2me" is pronounced as one long rising word, instead of just rising on "shen" and then "me" ending in whatever "shen" ended in.


It's confusing because I don't hear this anywhere else.


Let me know if what I say makes no sense lol

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Actually, there are 'tones' of the neutral tone. But when Chinese people speak them, they will pronounce them very lightly. However, most of Chinese 'believe' there isn't any tones of the neutral tone. That's why you may confuse about the neutral tone.


Tones of the neutral tone go like this:


1st tone + a neutral pronounce like:  1st tone + 2rd tone: ɡē ɡe 

2rd tone + a neutral pronounce like: 2rd tone + 3rd tone: yé ye 

3rd tone + a neutral pronounce like: half 3rd tone + 4th tone:nǎi nɑi 

4th tone + a neutral pronounce like: 4th tone + 1st tone: dì di 


And about 'shén me', the formal pronunciation indeed is 'shén me'. But no one speak it like this, because it's hard for Chinese to pronounce. So 98% Chinese pronounce as 'shěn me' and it has already become a pronunciation habit for Chinese. 


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This confuses people now and then. No idea what your teacher is doing, but you might find this interesting, and maybe follow the link through to here.

Reading, thanks. :)


Actually I don't have a problem with tones, I don't think so.

The most trouble I have is saying 3 3 3 3 (wo yi hen hao) or 2 4 (bu shi).


2 4 I have trouble letting my voice fall. Pronouncing a separate 4 is easy, but connected to 2 is hard somehow.

3 3 3 3 is just confusing, because my teacher says it has to be pronounced as 2 3 2 3 which requires some conscious thinking. Then you have 3 3 3, which is 3 2 3 or 2 2 3? This seems to vary between people.

I think I'll just get better over time when I get more used to it.


Anyway went slightly off-topic there sorry. x) Tones are fun.


Copying from the linked topic so I don't necropost:


After a third tone, the neutral tone is half-high (i.e., 214), as in 我的 wo3 de5).


Oh yeah, this is what my teacher is doing with nimen etc. "ni" only falling then "men" higher in pitch.


ni men

21 4


Actually I never knew tone 3 is only pronounced as pitch "21" if a non-3 tone comes after it. My teacher speaks so slowly, she pronounced every 3 as a full 3. Makes a lot of sense because in dialogue audio etc. the third tone always sounds really short and simple, almost like a first tone but lower.

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If I understand correctly, it's pronounced as ɡē ɡé?


Sorry! confused you again! 


I forget to clarify about the pitch of tones. There are 5 pithches in Chinese. 1 is lowest and 5 is highest.

Pitch of 1st tone is 55, pitch of 2rd tone is 35, pitch of 3rd tone is 214, pitch of half 3rd tone is 21, pitch of 4th tone is 51.

So when we pronouce the neutual tones, we can follow their pitches:

1st tone + a neutral : 55 + 2

2rd tone + a neutral : 35 + 3

3rd tone + a neutral : half 3rd tone(21)+ 4

4th tone + a neutral : 51 + 1


And I have a photo to explain this concept more clear. If you need it, I can email you.



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You can post the photo here. But you're being confusing. 


2rd tone + a neutral pronounce like: 2rd tone + 3rd tone:


2rd tone + a neutral : 35 + 3


are completely different.


He meant "3rd tone" as in "pitch 3", but "2nd tone" as in "tone 2".


So Tone 2 + Pitch 3 = 353


I made the same mistake with phrasing in my first post.

But better if he confirms it. ^^

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The arrows are pitches of 4 tones and the red dots are pitches of different neutral tones.





You can post the photo here. 


Tried several times to upload this photo earlier but failed. Hope it works this time! 




He meant "3rd tone" as in "pitch 3", but "2nd tone" as in "tone 2".


So Tone 2 + Pitch 3 = 353


I made the same mistake with phrasing in my first post.

But better if he confirms it. ^^


Yes! You are right!  :lol:

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