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It is frequently said that Mandarin has little tone sandhi, but this is not exactly right, and I have several books on this subject to try to investigate this subject to improve my poor pronunciation. These were new to me, or kind of made sense, but were not explicity in any books:

1. Tone 1 + Tone 2: no need to make the second tone rising. Sufficient to pronounce as 2 tone 1's. Can native speakers comment on this? If someone said "kun1ming1hua4" instead of "kun1ming2hua4", how will that sound?

2. A book written by a Chinese university professor whose name I forget right now, but who happened to be my Chinese teacher's old teacher, claimed that 3 Tone 3's in a row, should be 2+1+3, eg yi4ba3 hao3yu3san3, can be pronounced yi4ba3 hao2yu1san3, and in fact this is more natural.

It is the wave effect of tones occurring together that is difficult for foreigners. These changes may capture that. Can someone comment?

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nipponman
1. Tone 1 + Tone 2: no need to make the second tone rising. Sufficient to pronounce as 2 tone 1's. Can native speakers comment on this? If someone said "kun1ming1hua4" instead of "kun1ming2hua4", how will that sound?

2. A book written by a Chinese university professor whose name I forget right now, but who happened to be my Chinese teacher's old teacher, claimed that 3 Tone 3's in a row, should be 2+1+3, eg yi4ba3 hao3yu3san3, can be pronounced yi4ba3 hao2yu1san3, and in fact this is more natural.

Somewhere else on this forum someone mentioned that if three second tones appear in a row, then the second one becomes a first tone. But, since that is the second, second tone word, then you're #1 makes sense too.

Number 2. That would only make sense since hao3 yu3 san3 = hao2 yu2 san3, and, according to your #1, that would make it hao2 yu1 san3.

nipponman

P.s. I think this tone sandhi might confuse things, since tones are meant to distinguish words, but if words get different tones, then it might become confusing. Just my opinion though.

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This is true only of 3-syllable 'words', i.e. 昆明话 is sometimes indistinguishable from kun1ming1hua4 when said quickly, but 昆明 is just kun1ming2. Note that this really depends on speech rate, if you are talking slowly the raising contour in ming2 can still be heard, but this is not true of T3-sandhi (你好 is ni2hao3 no matter how slow you speak).

The reason why this happens is that syllables in the middle of a 'word' are of shortest duration, so you can't literally 'hear' the contour as clearly. I think (?) the first person to point this out was Chao Yuan-ren.

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I don't think the ming of kun1ming1hua4 should be a first tone. It's just a softer second tone. Now that you've brought this up, I notice that for multi-syllabic (i.e. multi-character) words (词)in Mandarin, you need to stress the first syllable and be softer on the remaining syllables. That may make the tones sound a little different than if they were all equally stressed, but I don't think there are many cases where the tones actually change completely. At least, they shouldn't in the examples fenlan gave. Do you have any other examples?

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I don't think the ming of kun1ming1hua4 should be a first tone. It's just a softer second tone. Now that you've brought this up, I notice that for multi-syllabic (i.e. multi-character) words (词)in Mandarin, you need to stress the first syllable and be softer on the remaining syllables. That may make the tones sound a little different than if they were all equally stressed, but I don't think there are many cases where the tones actually change completely. At least, they shouldn't in the examples fenlan gave. Do you have any other examples?

Gato, I think a lot of words have stress on a syllable other than first, especially if it's the 4th tone:

容易,再见

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It's sad see so many people are strugling with tones. Foreign students are overwhelmed by tones, and that is NOT necessary. The simple truth is if you speak fast enough, people will only hear fluent Manarin and understand you very well. Tones disappeared on the surface of earth.

Tones are important, but not as critical as somebody put it, for example :"address your mother horse" etc. That's totally nonsence. Chinese people were not born yesterday. As I told my students, context is more important than tones.

For people who are worried about their pronunciations, this is good news: You don't need to worry about it any more. It's a by-product and you will absolutely get it even if you are not focus on it.

learn mandarin as a second language

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Thanks for your reassuring post but I tend to agree only partially. Chinese people really don't understand very often when you don't pronounce tones properly - I had this experience myself. Also, when you learn a language you want to speak properly, you can't get rid of your accent completely but you can make it as close as possible.

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Gato, I think a lot of words have stress on a syllable other than first, especially if it's the 4th tone:

容易,再见

You might be right that there are many exceptions as I haven't studied this formally. But with your examples, the first character should be stressed in both cases: 容 in 容易 and 再 in 再见. Compare 再见 with 见面.

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You might be right that there are many exceptions as I haven't studied this formally. But with your examples, the first character should be stressed in both cases: 容 in 容易 and 再 in 再见. Compare 再见 with 见面.

Strange. That's what I hear (sterss on the second syllable) but that's only me.

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to atitarev:

Everybody has similar experience when they start to try using their Mandarin. My students told me many stories of this kind. After carefully exam each senario, I get to two conclusions:

1. they don't understand you because of your face, not because of your language. In case of this, you only need to repeat yourself once or twice and let the fact sink in that you can speak Mandarin.

2. your language has a structure defect. for example:

In a restaurant, a student tried to order water. So when the waiter ask: "你要喝什么?"

she answered "水." this didn't get across. The reason? It is not what Chinese people will say. So next time try: 矿泉水. Bang! no problem.

Think what the real reason is. It's unfair to contribute all the problems to your pronunciations. I am sure you actually pronunced quite well!

learn mandarin as a second language

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I was actually talking on MSN with my penpal who knew who I was and knew my face too :)

And I read some text from a textbook. Don't remember, which passage or text it was but my partner didn't understand some phrases and I had to get my tones right. Then it worked. I am sure otherwise my accent is OK (have no trouble with vowels or consonants). I can pronounce the tones correctly too but I get mixed up in a sentence or I can just forget the tones for some words, which can be a bit frustrating. I understand your point and yes, if you can't use or remember tones you still need to try to get your message across.

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Well, I *don't* think the secret is just to speak fast and not bother with the tones. Chinese can *not* understand that. It is true that Chinese people often need to realise that a foreigner speaks Chinese. On the subject of stress - this is unmarked in Chinese dictionaries, but is clearly part of the language. 2 examples:

1. 胡同 hu2tong: I am pretty sure there is a stress on the 2nd syllable, even though it is neutral tone. Or is the hu2 just pronounced quickly. There is something strange about this word.

2. 2005年: accordingly to my Chinese teacher, I pronounce the 2-0-0-5 too evenly, and it really needs to be pronounced in 2 groups: 2-0, gap, 0-5年.

I'll try to find the book I was referring and post more examples of tone sandhi.

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It has been my experience that chinese people cannot understand you without the correct tones. I once said, wo3 men dei3 qu4 shang4 ke4. And my friend quickly blurted out, "it is dei3" not "dei4, third tone!". All the while I thought I used the third tone! So I think tones have a great deal of importance.

nipponman

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skylee

When I visited India earlier this year, I had this Indian tourist guide who spoke very very very fluent Mandarin (he spent years studying in Sichuan, IIRC). It was obvious that his tones were usually wrong (he was not good at the 3rd tone at all and it sounded like 2nd), but usually we understood him all right. If you just listened to him talk, you would think that he was Chinese (because of the fluency) talking with an accent. But on one occasion he left us during dinner and I asked him where he was going, and he said "shang wang". He had to repeat several times before I figured out that he was going to use the internet (he got the "wang3" wrong). And of course I could not resist correcting him.

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Skylee, the third tone is an interesting subject. Formally is 214, but I found one university site in America that recommended American learners to regard it as a low falling, or even a low level tone, eg 21, or 11, which in some circumstances became 35. The 214 only occurs in isolation or at the end of a phrase, but I *think*, but don't know, that in a phrase like shangwang, there is no need to say shang51wang214, but you *can* just say shang51wang21. Is that right? In other words, the "guaiwanr" on the 3rd tone is only for emphasis, and it is normally a low falling/low level tone. Any comments?

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That's exactly right. It's not only foreign students that Chinese people don't understand. Sometimes, Chinese people don't understand Chinese people! We all have our accent, and a person from Qingdao will have great difficulty talking to a person from Taiyuan. This "shang wang" can happen anywhere. There is story posted in our students blog, talking about Drunken Weshmen and variations in Mandarin . It happens everywhere and on anybody who is out of one's hometown.

It's too issolated to put too much stress on pronunciation. It's like: 丢了西瓜, 捡了芝麻.

learn mandarin as a second language

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shiaosan, I dont quit agree with you. Tones are not always necessary for understanding, but they are still important.

1. Tone 1 + Tone 2: no need to make the second tone rising. Sufficient to pronounce as 2 tone 1's. Can native speakers comment on this? If someone said "kun1ming1hua4" instead of "kun1ming2hua4", how will that sound?

That's not right. 经常,昆明 etc should all be pronounced 1+2, 1+1 is wrong. Even if you heard them differently in a fast speech, the speaker still meant to say 1+2.

2. A book written by a Chinese university professor whose name I forget right now, but who happened to be my Chinese teacher's old teacher, claimed that 3 Tone 3's in a row, should be 2+1+3, eg yi4ba3 hao3yu3san3, can be pronounced yi4ba3 hao2yu1san3, and in fact this is more natural.

2+1+3 is wrong. 我很好(wo3 hen2 hao3) wo2 hen1 hao3? 很好搞(hen2 hao2 gao3) hen2 hao1 gao3? 我很喜欢(wo3 hen2 xi3 huan1 / wo2 hen2 xi3 huan1) wo2 hen1 xi3 huan1?

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I figured out tone Sandhi on a strictly listening basis. Once you've figured out tone Sandhi for certain common phrases, it can be applied to like tone patterns. I learned this technique at Middlebury and it really helped. Take Quest's examples, for instance.

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Originally posted by Altair

3. A second tone (whether originally a second tone or a third tone) can be pronounced as a first tone if it follows a first or second tone and precedes any of the four tones within the same spoken phrase. (e.g., 谁能来 shei2 neng2 lai2 > shei2 neng1 lai2)

So, Quest, are you saying that this is wrong?:conf

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3. A second tone (whether originally a second tone or a third tone) can be pronounced as a first tone if it follows a first or second tone and precedes any of the four tones within the same spoken phrase. (e.g., 谁能来 shei2 neng2 lai2 > shei2 neng1 lai2)

nipponman, what Altair said is correct provided that you say the middle neng1 more quickly than the first or the third syllable. When the second character is said quickly, it in effect sounds like a so-called neutral tone (same tone as first, but softer).

But it's also possible to say the second syllable with a longer duration (just as one would exaggerate the enunciation of certain words in English), then you should say the second syllable with its original tone. Saying it with a neutral tone without shortening its length would sound wrong.

In natural speech, some characters are stressed and drag out longer than others. I don't know if any books teaches the rules for when and where to do that. Maybe it just takes lots of careful listening and practice. If in doubt, just keep the original tone.

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