Cantonese: words with final -m

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by SuperXW, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    In another thread, Ghabi has suggested an expression "lem lem lei" in Cantonese to express some food is very delicious. I find it's hard for me to pronounce these kind of expressions, because I'm not sure how to connect the "m" with many other consonants.
    When you speak Cantonese fast and fluently, do you always pronounce "m" clearly, or you have other ways to make it easier?
  2. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    I don't speak Cantonese but from my listening to Cantonese speakers speaking English, my guess is that the "m" will still be there but can be imperceptible by non-native speakers, because the explosive bit at the end of the consonant tends to mell away (in linguistics, we call this "implosive"). This is more clearly observable in the final stops such as p, k, t, etc,... : although they normally don't drop the final stops, they simply drop the explosive release of the sound. In the case of "m", depending on what follows it, the degrees of the melting away of its end are not the same.
  3. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
    Morning guys! This is an interesting question. I think you do say -m in Mandarin, don't you? For example, when you pronounce the words 三部, which would be uttered as sam1bu4, with the final -n assimilated by the following b- to become an -m. I may be wrong, of course.

    Actually, there're Cantonese dialects that don't have the bilabial finals (-m and -p), although in Guangzhou Cantonese the final -m is phonemic and is always pronounced clearly (compare minimal pairs like 金-斤, 心-身, 咸-閒, 慘-產 etc). Having said that, I think you should not worry about it too much. People would understand you, although your speech would sound a bit "off". But talking about "off", you should really hear me speak Mandarin. Now that is "off".:cool::D
  4. indigoduck Senior Member

    Canadian English
    Hi Ghabi,

    Official putonghua, 三部 is not pronounced sam1bu4. That is an example of mandarin with a cantonese accent. If you said it that way, i'm sure people with cantonese experience would understand it. I wonder about everyone else. The "m" 尾音 is a feature of ancient chinese that was lost in putonghua, but i think exist in some other dialects.

    Hi SuperXW,

    Cantonese 尾音 is a matter of practice, i suppose. Even when spoken quickly, the "m" is still clearly heard enough to be understood. In your example, "lem lem lei" - it is sufficiently clear so that one can hear "lem" and not "le" without the "m" for example.

    with How
    In english, an example of 尾音 is the word "pop", "cap" for the "p" sound.

    For the "m" 尾音 sound, it would sound similar to the following english words (tone maybe different) but the idea of the 尾音 is there:

    dumb = dam2 = 抌 (cantonese) = 仍 (putonghua)

    tum(my) "stomach" = tam3 = 探 (cantonese) = 哄 (putonghua)

    come (over here) = kam2 = 冚 = 蓋
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
  5. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Hi, indigoduck!
    I think I understand ghabi's example of 三部. He know's the official pinyin is san bu, but in this case, n would become m when uttering. For a standard n sound, your tongue should touch your 上顎, but in 三部 you don't. I think this kind of situation happens in English too.
    I have no problem when pronouncing Cantonese sounds like tam, kam individually. Just feel hard to to connect them togather with other words. :) But you are right, it's a matter for practice. After several days, I'm feeling I can say lem lem lei better.
    By the way, I'm not sure which character is this: dam2 = 抌 (cantonese) = 仍 (putonghua). Could you make a Cantonese sentence with this dam2?
  6. indigoduck Senior Member

    Canadian English
    You understand what he means even though you're a person with the Beijing accent!? Okay, then i'm confused or i'm missing something.

    I have some questions:

    1) If you said the word 三 by itself, do you ever make an "m" sound?

    2) If there is "m" sound for 三部, is there an "m" sound in the word 散 when you pronounce 散步?
  7. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member


    Yes, they methodology is the same.

    The "m" sound here IS IN FACT the "b" sound from "bu". You can say it's an "m", or a "b". Either way, You pronounce it by close your lips.
  8. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie Senior Member

    English (UK)
    SuperXW is right. The "n" changing into "m" can be observed in many languages: tempence (from ten pence, English), komban (from konban, Japanese), etc. Sometimes the change (assimilation) can be very subtle and it requires a lot of convincing. For example, if you tell most Chinese speakers that they normally say 问你 (wen ni) but 问我 (weng wo), they wouldn't believe you :)
  9. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong
    I probably gave a bad example.:eek: Perhaps the -m is more obviously in words like 怎么 and 什么?
  10. indigoduck Senior Member

    Canadian English
    Ok, i understand you now. When i was in mainland china, i did notice this. It's not as noticeable in Taiwan (where the putonghua is not very 標準), though. Can someone else confirm this?
  11. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    my putonghua is not very standard, I always thought that 什么 was pronounced "se me" (as a southern I don't pronounce the 翘舌音) and 怎么 was pronounced "ze me" and those are still my actual, real pronunciations of the two 词语 you can imagine my surprise, when I leant that the pinyin for 什 was "shen", and that the pinyin for 怎 was "zen"
  12. Serafín33

    Serafín33 Senior Member

    Assimilation of nasals for place of articulation is very common cross-linguistically. Happens in Taiwan too, though not particularly in 什么/什麼 because they usually pronounce that "shěmò" or "shémē". Definitely happens in HK Cantonese with words ending in -n too.
  13. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    I'm practicing the saying 各花入各眼. gok fa jap gok ngaan. So hard...... :(
  14. Ghabi

    Ghabi AL/OL/Ar/Zh mod

    Hong Kong

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