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What happens to the "n" in shiyan yi xia?


realmayo
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Just curious about whether dropping the final "n" sound is normal if it comes before a vowel, and if so what this phenomenon is called, and how widely it extends.

 

So:

试验: shi yan : on its own I can hear the "n" (i.e. I can hear the closing-off of the sound that I'd expect from the tongue-to-palate movement associated with "n").

试验一下: here I don't hear the run-on that you might expect in say French (*shi ya ni xia); instead the "n" is kind of swallowed or glottalled, so it's not really audible.

 

Am I hearing this right? I have a feeling its pretty basic but just something I'd never consciously paid attention to before.

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That kind of 'run-on' or 'liaison' almost never happens in Chinese. To explain that, imagine there is a silent letter in front of every syllable that begins with a vowel, so it's not /i/ but /ʔi/. Remember the structure of a Chinese syllable is 声母+韵母, right? We take it very seriously. Every syllable must have a initial consonant even if it's inaudible. The so-called 零声母 is actually a glottal stop /ʔ/, whose existence prevents the linking of two syllables.

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I appreciate there's no liason. But do I hear correctly that the "n" kind of vanishes in this situation? - i.e. perhaps it needs to vanish, precisely to eliminate any liason (and therefore prevent someone hearing 事业泥下 instead of 试验一下).

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Yeah I think the final often gets reduced to a nasalization of the vowel in this context. So instead of [ʂʐ̩˥˩ jɛn˥˩], it's [ʂʐ̩˥˩ jɛ̃˥˩] (whereas 事业 would be [ʂʐ̩˥˩ jɛ˥˩]). This type of change is quite common where you get nasal consonants in syllable-final position in many languages.

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On 10/30/2021 at 8:28 PM, realmayo said:

does the tip of your tongue touch the top of your mouth in the same way with both  实验。and 试验一下.

I don't think it's the tip of your tongue but the part behind the tip of your tongue.

I am not sure, but I think the pronunciation of n in a Chinese 前鼻音韵母 is not the same as the pronunciation of n in an English word, like "yearn". Maybe it's because the different durations of your tongue touching your palate. Even when I pronounce the single 验, my tongue touches my palate very softly and quickly, and then relaxes very fast.

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  • 9 months later...

I find that the Mandarin nasal rhymes are often reduced to approximants or further reduced to nasal vowels. This is similar to EnergyReaper's claim of shorter oral closure duration. English speakers don't always recognize nasal vowels very accurately, but I think that's what you have to listen for. I think you can also hear a change in vowel quality representing the "n" in "yàn", differentiating it from "yà" and "yè" for example; it's good to consider the phonetic system as a whole like this, always asking yourself if not "yàn", then what Mandarin syllable might I be hearing?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Beautiful examples of how tonal pitch is always subsumed into lexical and prosodic stress. 年 receives the least amount of accentuation and ends up sounding like a third tone (if you hear it in isolation).

 

Another common illustration of final lenition of -n would be 晚安, which often comes out as a straight cry of "wăā!" with only nasalised vowels and barely any glottal stop in between.

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  • 1 month later...

That graphic is wrong and/or misleading.

 

It states that the third N in nan'an is phonetically equivalent to the first. In actual fact, that first N is the only N in that whole graphic that forms a syllabic initial and that should therefore be pronounced like a 'regular' N (unless you're a southerner, but let's leave that aside). The second and third Ns are both part of a syllabic final - in fact, they're the SAME final! - and as such they can both (though by no means must, as far as I understand of dialect variations) be taken to indicate a certain degree of nasalisation.

 

So they seem to imply here that a zero initial will produce a phonetic exception for this one particular final. Has anyone ever heard of this? There're quite adamant about it: the syllable AN is used for contrast throughout the rest of the examples at the bottom. This raises a whole series of additional questions for the student (e.g. whether this exception can be generalised, etc).

 

I find this poster almost intentionally obfuscating. Isn't it easier to teach that all syllabic final Ns indicate nasalisation, rather than make a rule of only ONE such syllabic final and then subtly imply a needless exception to said rule which they don't even bother to explicitly draw attention to, let alone explain? How confusing. 

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On 9/28/2022 at 8:41 PM, realmayo said:

So you disagree that: the tip of the tongue hits the ridge in the first N and the third N and does not do so for the second N?

Yes. I disagree because the tip is as likely to either hit or (just barely) miss the ridge in both the second and third Ns, i.e. in all -n finals. In these finals, some degree of nasalisation is quite simply obligatory; full obstruction, however, is optional ('allophonic') and depends on enunciation, dialect, idiolect and/or chance - as yourself and everyone else noted in the rest of this thread. 

 

I suppose it's easier to be misled by 南岸 because the second syllable is utterance-final, so it may be natural to obstruct the airflow at the end, especially when pronouncing it in isolation. But that's not because the syllable AN is somehow an exception. Would anyone find it remotely puzzling to hear 按照 as ã4zhao4?

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On 9/28/2022 at 8:28 PM, sanchuan said:

I suppose it's easier to be misled by 南岸 because the second syllable is utterance-final, so it may be natural to obstruct the airflow at the end, especially when pronouncing it in isolation.

 

I think that's exactly what the graphic is saying (though they use "word" instead of "utterance" — I agree that "utterance" would be more accurate).

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On 9/28/2022 at 10:43 PM, Demonic_Duck said:

 

I think that's exactly what the graphic is saying (though they use "word" instead of "utterance" — I agree that "utterance" would be more accurate).

 

Yes, I guess that's what they mean by "in the middle a word" [sic].

 

My point was that the way this is presented is wrong, because it is a minor and optional phonetic effect rather than a phonemic feature of the language, and it's potentially misleading too, because students are taught to pay conscious attention to an explicit distinction that doesn't really exist as such and that wouldn't anyway occur only in the middle of a word (as any student that goes on to overarticulate 南岸上 as nã aN shang may soon find out).

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