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Difference between revisions of "The "r" sound"

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Next up: [[the "ü" vowel]] (you're almost finished!).
 
Next up: [[the "ü" vowel]] (you're almost finished!).

Revision as of 02:46, 8 June 2015

Have you every noticed that the "r" sound is different in many foreign languages? English, Spanish, Russian, French, Japanese, German... the "r" sound is different in every one. Well, guess what? It's also different in Mandarin Chinese. Pinyin "r-" does not make the same sound as "r" in English. In fact, the Mandarin Chinese "r-" sound does not exist in English, so you're going to have to train yourself to make the sound.

Pinyin's "r" Sound

Like the ch-, sh-, and zh- sounds of last section, Mandarin Chinese's r- sound is also retroflex. That means the tip of your tongue should be pointed up toward the roof of your mouth, and also be rather far back in your mouth. That makes it quite different from the typical American "r" sound, which is pronounced by raising the middle of the tongue in the back of the mouth.

This may seem strange, but the Mandarin r- sound really is very similar to the ch-, sh-, and zh- sounds.

  • r- is pronounced by making the "French j" sound like in the words "leisure" and "pleasure". While making that sound, slowly pull the tip of your tongue further into the back of your mouth. The sound will start to sound less "buzzy" and more like an "r" sound. That's the Mandarin r- sound.
  • ri is an odd syllable because it almost feels like you're not making a vowel sound at all, or if you are, you're doing it kind of at the same time as the "r" sound. This sound rhymes with the zhi, chi, shi sounds of last section, and there's certainly no "ee" sound in it.

There is actually a range of acceptable "buzziness" for the r- sound in Chinese. You can't actually make the sound in the words "leisure" and "pleasure"; that's too "buzzy." But you don't have to pull your tongue so far back that the buzziness fades entirely.

Pinyin Chart Fragment

This is just a part of the full pinyin chart, limited to the sounds we've covered so far.

Tone: 1 2 3 4 1234 [Show more Settings]

Additional Settings

Show Text: IPA Zhuyin Wade-Giles

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Chart Mode: Audio Links (disables audio)

-a- -a -ai -ao -an -ang -e- -e -ei -en -eng -er -o- -o -ou -ong -i- -i -i* -ia -iao -ie -iou -ian -iang -in -ing -iong -u- -u -ua -uai -uei -uo -uan -uang -uen -ueng
r-
rao
[ʐɑʊ̯]
ㄖㄠ
jao
ran
[ʐan]
ㄖㄢ
jan
rang
[ʐɑŋ]
ㄖㄤ
jang
re
[ʐɯ̯ʌ]
ㄖㄜ
je
ren
[ʐən]
ㄖㄣ
jen
reng
[ʐəŋ]
ㄖㄥ
jeng
rou
[ʐɤʊ̯]
ㄖㄡ
jou
rong
[ʐʊŋ]
ㄖㄨㄥ
jung
ri
[ʐʅ]
jih
ru
[ʐu]
ㄖㄨ
ju
rua
[ʐu̯ɑ]
ㄖㄨㄚ
jua
rui
[ʐu̯eɪ̯]
ㄖㄨㄟ
jui
ruo
[ʐu̯ɔ]
ㄖㄨㄛ
jo
ruan
[ʐu̯an]
ㄖㄨㄢ
juan
run
[ʐu̯ən]
ㄖㄨㄣ
jun
r-

Next up: the "ü" vowel (you're almost finished!).

Sources and further reading