Tone Deaf…

Someone who has studied Chinese might be a bit critical of how I have chosen to present language posts so I figured I might head some of that off by explaining a bit about using the western alphabet to write Chinese and what I am trying to achieve with these posts. I mentioned pīnyīn in a couple of posts without really explaining what it is. Pīnyīn is is the official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet . The characters that make up the word pīnyīn, 拼音, mean “spelled sounds”. It works very well and it is quiet intuitive save for a few letter combos. Furthermore, it is extremely consistent. What I mean by that is that using pīnyīn, the syllables 豹 (bào), 到 (dào), 套(tào) and 告(gào) for example all rhyme. Conversely in English, lead and lead  don’t even rhyme. But before we all bow to Chinese language and marvel at it’s superior orderliness, what are those little things above the letter ‘a’ in all those examples? Those are what makes pīnyīn difficult for me, the tones. In Mandarin Chinese there are four tones, represented in pīnyīn as the little lines above one of the vowels in each syllable. You see, there are only like a couple of hundred or so different sounds in Mandarin, multiplied by these 4 tones. That means there is an EXCRUCIATING number of homophones, even if you were good enough to discern tones, which I absolutely am not. The tones themselves are actually pretty easy to explain though. Wikipedia does an exceptional job, with audio examples so I will defer to it. Here’s the link. This blog won’t make anyone fluent in Chinese and I do not wish to give any impression otherwise. The goal here, with the language posts at least, is that readers might be more comfortable calling Yu Jing units by their International Standard Code (ISC) names and be better able to understand each other, and that maybe they might learn a few fun facts along the way. I noticed even hardcore players and community members dumbfounded by how to pronounce Chinese syllables that seem intuitive to me just from having spent a year or so living in Gansu. If it was possible for me to get to that level without any formal training then it should be simple enough for me to explain it as I learned it. To this end I don’t want to complicate things and I deliberately left out discussion of tones in individual posts.

“No, it’s a falling tone you idiot foreigner, watch my finger one more time as I say it…”

6 thoughts on “Tone Deaf…

  1. Always a joy reading your post and looking at all those minis

    you’ve got 告 (gào) and 套 (tào) mixed.

    Just have to finish my OP:IS before i start on Yu Jing.

    Liked by 1 person

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