Learn Chinese in China
Apollys

2nd tone at the end of a sentence

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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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