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Tone for France 法國


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I learned this word 23 years ago from native speakers, while working out of the Standard Spoken Chinese vol1 book. In that series of books, 法國 is pronounced fa4guo5. It is also that way on tapes I have that go with the vol 2 of the Standard Spoken Chinese series.

I can't remember what tone I heard for this word when I lived in Taiwan 22 years ago.

Recently I have been listening to the mp3s that go with David and Helen in China. There they use either fa3guo2 or fa3guo5 (I can't remember) the former is also indicated at


So, has the standard pronunciation changed? Why wasn't I notified? :wink:

Generally I get the impression that there are a lot more neutral tones indicated in the 20 year old SSC series than in the new David and Helen series. I have not done any statistical analyses to back up this claim.

Another impression, again without analysis, is that news broadcasters/readers tend to use neutral tones a lot less frequently. That is they seem to pronounce every tone, even if it would be neutral in normal spoken usage. I seem to remember noticing this listening to the radio in Taiwan 22 years ago. Also the few times I have watched the VOA mandarin news clips on the web I got the same impression.

So, there are 3 areas for comments

1. France

2. old vs new text books

3. news broadcasts vs everyday speech

Thanks in advance for insights.

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I haven't been around 23 years yet (only have been learning for two and a half years), and I never saw anything else but Fa3guo2.

Accordingly, I also haven't worked with old books, but I noticed that in the books I use, many syllables that would be pronounced as a neutral tone on the street have some tone assigned to them (but even the accompanying CD's usually deviate).

As for news reporters, they must have very standard pronounciation to a) promote the language and B) be easier understandable. Maybe Chinese is considered the more standard the less neutral tones you use?

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gougou regarding your, " ...more standard the fewer neutral tones..."

It depends what you mean by standard.

Native speakers don't sound like they are reading the news in every day conversation do they?

If language on the street agreed with text books all the time, well, we would hardly need chinese-forums.com.

My impression was that in normal speech the "decision" to neutralize tones was some mixture of what was convenient, what was required to avoid ambiguity (our previous discussion of ambiguity notwithstanding), and some "rules" acquired by practice. This could also depend on how fast the speaker is talking.

News reader pronunciation seems like a stylized form. Consider when the anchors take a break and chit chat, don't they sound different? Aren't they dropping or neutralizing lots of tones during the chit chat? It could be that what they are reading is actually or approaching written Chinese "grammar", hence more abbreviated, and therefore in need of exact tone prononciation to avoid ambiguity. This is just a guess on my part.

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Native speakers don't sound like they are reading the news in every day conversation do they?
Sadly, no. Would make understanding a lot easier. But of course, you'd lose all the nice slang...

You're right, though, standard is an ambiguous word to use here. Probably 'official' better describes what I mean.

As to neutral tones, I personally would think that most of it would come from those rules acquired by practice (which of course were established according to the other two factors.) Or are there really such large differences between two individuals' ways of speaking?

I'm not quite sure about your comment about the Chinese news texts. Is the grammar used there really so hard to understand? I still think the more explicit pronounciation is mostly to ensure that everybody (rather: the largest possible part of the population) understands what is going on. Even in Germany, the news anchors will speak differently during and after a broadcast.

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Consider when the anchors take a break and chit chat, don't they sound different? Aren't they dropping or neutralizing lots of tones during the chit chat?

In deliberate speech you use less of the neutral tone but in chit chat, you don't need to sound so "correct". This explains your observation of news broadcasters/readers speech on and off stage, because the neutral tone by definition is a tone that has undergone some reduction in quality.

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