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opper567

Regional differences in Mandarin prononciation

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opper567

I am studying Chinese at a somewhat intensive summer program at Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA). My teacher is from Beijing therefore pronounces Putonghua perfectly. She took a couple days sick and so my class had a substitute teacher from Taiwan. I noticed she pronounces "cong" 从 like "chong" and pronounces things completely different than my teacher from Beijing. In my class there is this kid who always pronounces "shi" 是 like "si". Does anyone know which region this is a trait of?

I'd like to know more regional differences, if anyone knows any, could they list them?

I'd also like to know any differences in common word pronounciations between Mainland China and Taiwan...

And my real question is, how can people from different regions who speak putonghua fluently possibly understand eachother with all these differences?

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盤古

In general, southern Chinese can't pronounce any tongue-rolling sounds, namely sh-, zh-, ch-, and r-. But of course, there are always exceptions as more and more Chinese are educated in Mandarin first and then their local dialect.

I don't understand why the Taiwanese substitute teacher would pronounce 从 "cong" as "chong" as that norm would be the opposite. But pronouncing 是 "shi" as "si" is definitely something that's much more common among southern Chinese.

I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan and was fortunate enough to have been brought up speaking Mandarin first. I am very capable of pronouncing the tongue-rolling sounds, my only problem is that it's difficult for me to pronounce the difference between -in and -ing sounds as I pronounce both as "-in", though I can definitely hear the difference.

The pronunciation differences between each region is actually quite minimal, at least to native- and fluent-speakers. I've travelled all over Taiwan and mainland China and not once did I have a problem understanding the local pronunciation. :)

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devi9

In Southern China they tend to drop and add 'H' like your substitute did (chi becomes ci, cang becomes chang). I don't know if there is any particular rule for this in Southern China (if they do it with every 'shi' pronounciation, etc.). Another difference I noticed is my teacher from Nanjing uses different tones for certain words. Again, I can't put my finger on any kind of rule for the tone changes, but they definitely exist! Sometimes he'll ask the class what tone a word is!

And my real question is, how can people from different regions who speak putonghua fluently possibly understand eachother with all these differences?

I'm definitely not the best person to answer this question, but I'll try.

I think there must be some informal (or formal one I don't know about!) rule for the changes in pronounciation and tones that people all over China understand. Kind of like in American where almost everyone knows a Boston accent when they hear it and still understand what people are saying based on context and a solid background in English.

Hope this helps! ...and that someone else can explain it better!

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cui ruide

Definately in Taiwan, and I hear the south, too, 'shi' starts sound more like 'si' or a straight up 'shi' (as opposed to a more 'shihhrr' sound).

'Beijinghua' tends to have more '--r' (兒/儿) endings than standard putonghua; one of my laoshi from Beijing also did the trademark 'v' sound for 'w' (i.e. 'wo xiang ven ni yi ge venti', I want to ask you a question). There's nothing formal about it, just regional differences. Putonghua is based on Beijinghua, so a lot of other places tend to sound unlike what you've been trained in. It's nice to be exposed to teachers/speakers from various places.

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aeon

A couple of my teachers were from Dongbei. They mixed 'z-' and 'zh-' and pronounced 'r-' as 'y-', so 认识 became yin4shi4 and 东北人 became dong1bei3yin2 when they weren't concentrating on speaking standard putonghua. It wasn't difficult once I worked out when the differences would turn up.

I don't think Chinese is in this regard any more awkward than English with it's vowel shifts, regional dialect differences and no recognised standard accent. At least Putonghua is a recognised standard.

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laohu489

And be careful about thinking people from Beijing speak perfect 普通话, they really like to add the 儿音 at the end of things. Took me a few days to realize that 'bur' and 'fur' was really 本 and 分.

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atitarev

As far as I know the Southerners drop H, not add them. If they do add, they are probably confused and add H where it shouldn't be. A lot of (but not all) Shanghainese, Cantonese and Taiwanese people have difficulty pronouncing shi, chi, zhi - I hear si, ci and zi instead. In Hong Kong they even teach Mandarin that way and they think it's the correct Putonghua :)

They say: TAMUN SI XUESENG (TAMEN SHI XUESHENG) is standard Mandarin from Cantonese person's point of view - and KEUIDEI HAI HOKSAANG (in Cantonese) ("They are students")

Mandarin is supposed to be standard in Taiwan but we know a Taiwanese lady (very educated) from Taipei/Taibei. She can pronounce shi, zhi, chi if she puts in some effort but often she forgets and we hear Zongguo (Zhongguo) and Ze si wo (Zhe shi wo).

Also, standard Mandarin in Taiwan (Guoyu) is slightly different from mainland Mandarin (Putonghua) too. Some words have different tones. Korea (as a whole) is called Chaoxian in PRC and Hanguo in Taiwan/Hong Kong. New Zealand for example is Niu Xilan, not Xin Xilan but I am not an expert, a lot of foreign words are called differently from mainland. I am not an expert it's better to ask a Taiwanese person about differences.

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Quest
In Hong Kong they even teach Mandarin that way and they think it's the correct Putonghua :)

TAMUN SI XUESENG (TAMEN SHI XUESHENG) is standard Mandarin from Cantonese person's point of view

:-? I dont think that's true.

Most dialect speakers in the south just do not make the effort to distinguish z zh s sh and c ch, because using z s c does not hinder communication, not that they dont know what the standard should be like.

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atitarev
:-? I dont think that's true.

Hi Quest, by no means I mean to upset HK people - you, personally can speak Mandarin very well but I am talking about most people. It's the opinion of HK'ers I communicated with. Cantonese has no means to record SH, CH, ZH sounds as they are in Mandarin, you need a lot of practise with audio recordings an/or Mandarin teachers whose first language is Mandarin. Since Hong Kong and Macao were separated from mainland for a long time - there were almost no Northerners in HK to teach Mandarin with Northern pronunciation. I used to study with a Shanghainese guy who was taught by a Mandarin teacher and he was friendly ridiculed by his Beijing roommates becasue of his accent. Also, what Beijing people say about Southerners that they just can't hear the difference - they say SI but they think they actually say SHI.

Don't mean to be stubborn, it depends of course on your listening abilities and how much exposure you have to standard Mandarin (not just reading but listening and speaking).

I like this joke:

天不怕,地不怕,只怕广东人说普通话!

天不怕,地不怕,只怕廣東人說普通話!

Tian1 bu4 pa4,di4 bu4 pa4,zhi3 pa4 Guang3dong1ren2 shuo1 Pu3tong1hua4!

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opper567

If people in Beijing don't speak perfect putonghua, who does?

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fuxing

tell me about it....I lived in Fuzhou 福州 for 4 years...They tend to switch F and H. The city is pronounced "hu zhou"..I lived in a street called 通湖路 , pronounced tong fu lu. I honestly thought that was the correct way to say it till I got a teacher from Heilongjiang....ha.

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atitarev
If people in Beijing don't speak perfect putonghua, who does?

Putonghua is the language of all Chinese, not only Pekinese, it's based on Bejinghua but has features of other Northern dialects. In a perfect world all Chinese speak just one satndard language but there are dialects everywhere including the "Mandarin" area.

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shibo77

Right, not many people speak standard Putonghua, it is based on the Beijing dialect but it is not the Beijing dialect. You have to be trained to speak standard Putonghua for CCTV programmes. Other than adding "-r", the "v-" sound, Beijing dialect also has many different vocabularies. For example, I say "m" meaning "我wo3 I". I don't think there is a character for it. "M2 bu2 gan4. (我不干。Wo3 bu2 gan4)" In Hebei, I think they say Nan3, In Shandong and the Northeast they say An2. OK I am going off topic...

-Shìbó :mrgreen:

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bhchao
Definately in Taiwan, and I hear the south, too, 'shi' starts sound more like 'si' or a straight up 'shi' (as opposed to a more 'shihhrr' sound).

I'm one of those Taiwanese Mandarin speakers who pronounces 是 as 'si'. 8) All my friends pronounced it that way when I attended elementary school in Taipei. But don't learn from my experience. That is not correct Putonghua pronounciation.

Even though pronouncing 是 as 'si' is not the right pronounciation, many people including myself who grew up speaking Taiwanese Mandarin find pronouncing 是 as 'shi' as very awkward and out of place from the mainstream in Taiwan. When we start pronouncing 是 as 'shi', we feel like we're not Taiwan people anymore.

Frankly speaking, Taiwanese Mandarin speakers who pronounce 是 as 'shi' may receive the incorrect stereotype of being affiliated with "those communist mainlanders".

Also, Taiwanese Mandarin does not use 一點兒 ([yi1 dianr3]). Instead 一點 [yi1 dian3] or 一點點 is used.

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atitarev
I'm one of those Taiwanese Mandarin speakers who pronounces 是 as 'si'. 8) All my friends pronounced it that way when I attended elementary school in Taipei. But don't learn from my experience. That is not correct Putonghua pronounciation.

Even though pronouncing 是 as 'si' is not the right pronounciation' date=' many people including myself who grew up speaking Taiwanese Mandarin find pronouncing 是 as 'shi' as very awkward and out of place from the mainstream in Taiwan. When we start pronouncing 是 as 'shi', we feel like we're not Taiwan people anymore.

Frankly speaking, Taiwanese Mandarin speakers who pronounce 是 as 'shi' may receive the incorrect stereotype of being affiliated with "those communist mainlanders".

Also, Taiwanese Mandarin does not use 一點兒 ([yi1 dianr3']). Instead 一點 [yi1 dian3] or 一點點 is used.

What about Taiwanese TV? Do they also pronounce it that way - (SI for SHI, etc.)? The number of homophones is just doubled with the sibilant mix-up!

More on regional dialects/pronunciation - my observation. In Hong Kong young people tend to pronounce N as L, so it's LEI HOU (你好) = NI HAO, something to watch out for, even when Cantonese speak English - I heard a Chinese girl with an English name Nancy introducing herself as Lalcy and on a CD recording for a Mandarin textbook a person said "Lihao" for "Nihao". I knew she was from Hong Kong!

I am learning a bit of Cantonese too - sometimes I don't know whether I should use N or L as standard Cantonese is supposed to use N, not L.

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opper567

do people who pronounce the "n initial" as a "l sound" also pronounce the "n final" as a "l sound"?

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atitarev
do people who pronounce the "n initial" as a "l sound" also pronounce the "n final" as a "l sound"?

Not that I know of, I think it's only the initial N and not all Cantonese but in Hong Kong.

EDIT:

Actually, I am not sure any more. Otherwise, it would be "Lancy", not "Lalcy". A person from Hong Kong might answer better.

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cui ruide

"I'm one of those Taiwanese Mandarin speakers who pronounces 是 as 'si'. All my friends pronounced it that way when I attended elementary school in Taipei. But don't learn from my experience. That is not correct Putonghua pronounciation."

Yeah, a theatre major at my college that took Chinese and studied abroad in Taiwan put on a play for her senior project based partly on her experience in Taiwan, and in the play she would say some Chinese like, "Wo si Taiwanren." Most of my teachers being either Mainland Chinese or Mainland students, I recognized the Taiwanese accent. When I complimented her sometime later on her show, I told her I could hear the Taiwanese accent, and she laughed and said she loved it and thought it sounded so much better.

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atitarev
"I'm one of those Taiwanese Mandarin speakers who pronounces 是 as 'si'. All my friends pronounced it that way when I attended elementary school in Taipei. But don't learn from my experience. That is not correct Putonghua pronounciation."

Yeah' date=' a theatre major at my college that took Chinese and studied abroad in Taiwan put on a play for her senior project based partly on her experience in Taiwan, and in the play she would say some Chinese like, "Wo si Taiwanren." Most of my teachers being either Mainland Chinese or Mainland students, I recognized the Taiwanese accent. When I complimented her sometime later on her show, I told her I could hear the Taiwanese accent, and she laughed and said she loved it and thought it sounded so much better.[/quote']

I also asked Bhchao this question: is it considered standard in Taiwan? Is it the pronunciation taught at school, used in the media - TV and radio?

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cui ruide

Sorry, I don't know.

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