Pinyin pronunciation: r

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piano0011

Senior Member
Hokkien
hey guys!

I have seen somewhere that the "r" sound is meant to sound more like a "j" sound as in the word "asia" or "measure" but can someone tell me if this is more common pronunciation? Which part of China uses this sound as opposed to the normal r sound? thanks!
 
  • fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    The sound of "r" in Pinyin can be either the retroflex approximant ɻ or the voiced retroflex sibilant fricative ʐ. And personally I think the approximant ɻ is more common.
    The sound in "asia" and "measure" is the voiced palato-alveolar sibilant ʒ.
    They do bear some similarities. When I was in school, many students use the Mandarin r in places of ʒ when we were learning English. But I'm sure English speakers can immediately hear the difference.

    In northern China, people tend to pronounce retroflex sounds more (zh, ch, sh, r and erization). In southern China, where retroflex consonants are absent in many places, people may use another consonant (whatever sounds similar and easier to pronounce) to replace r when they speak Mandarin. (But I think many young people will do a standard r flawlessly.) I think the most common sound to replace r is /z/. I'm not sure if I have encountered /ʒ/.
     

    piano0011

    Senior Member
    Hokkien
    that is interesting how people from northern China have different accent and they tend to roll the r sound as well as in zai4 na3(r)...
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Doesn't Asia have two possible pronunciations? [ˈeɪʒə;ˈeɪʃə]
    [eɪʃə] 应该是新马口音的英语吧……

    fyl is right. In the South some areas pronounce r as [z], some as [l], while some words with r can also become [j]. Such as 荣 becoming yong (a similarity with Liaoning dialect).
    At school we were indeed to say [z] but retroflex, since that way it's easier for us. I never knew about the sound [ɻ] until I saw it on the Internet.
     

    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    [Moderator's Note: Merged with a previous thread]
    Hello, guys!

    I have just started learning Mandarin and I am a little confused about the R pronunciation. According to the Mandarin phonology in Wikipedia, that letter is pronounced as a retroflex approximant ( Retroflex approximant - Wikipedia) , but the pronunciation I hear in that wiki is very similar to the R in "hard" (specially to the R of the southern accent of US) and has no traces of the "s" sound of the word "pleasure", differently from the other pronunciations I hear in the web.

    Are both correct?

    Thanks in advance!
     
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    philchinamusical

    Senior Member
    Chinese-Mandarin and Shanghai dialect
    My oppinion is it almost resembles the English pronunciation of "R" in "Radio", "Rent", "Ruby". Just the tongue shall not be curled so much.
     

    brofeelgood

    Senior Member
    English, 中文
    Here's a table that shows the standard Mandarin pronunciations (both consonants and vowels). Click on the little speaker icons to hear what each one sounds like.

    If you'd like a second opinion, try forvo.
     

    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    The pronunciation of R on that wiki page is just an exemplificative Retroflex approximant. It can't represent the R pronunciation in Chinese. Here's the right pronunciation
    Thanks!

    I can hear that tip of fricative sound (as /ʒ/ in "pleasure") I mentioned before in her pronunciation of R. I guess I am hearing right? I heard from a chinese teacher that was a regionalism from the south of China and not standard Mandarin. I guess she was misinformed?


    Here's a table that shows the standard Mandarin pronunciations (both consonants and vowels). Click on the little speaker icons to hear what each one sounds like.
    For some reason, I am not able to click anywhere to listen the audios. Anyway, I already knew a useful table as this one from Mandarin Chinese Pinyin Chart with Audio - Yabla Chinese , but I got confused because I heard this R pronunciation, similar to the English's retroflex approx, in another place. And also sometimes just hearing is not enough to figure out how to make the sound. Thanks anyway!
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    According to the Mandarin phonology in Wikipedia, that letter is pronounced as a retroflex approximant (Retroflex approximant - Wikipedia) and has no traces of the "s" sound of the word "pleasure"
    You are describing a retroflex approximant [ɻ].
    differently from the other pronunciations I hear in the web.
    I guess you heard a retroflex sibilant fricative [ʐ] or a retroflex non-sibilant fricative [ɻ˔].
    Are both correct?
    Yes. Mandarin /r/ can be pronounced as a retroflex approximant [ɻ], retroflex non-sibilant fricative [ɻ˔], or retroflex sibilant fricative [ʐ]. The choice is determined by both dialectal factors and idiosyncratic factors. For example, I think I have a tendency of pronouncing it as a sibilant fricative when it is followed by a high vowel, as a non-sibilant fricative when it is followed by a mid vowel, and as an approximant when it is followed by a low vowel. The above tendency (just a tendency, not a clear-cut rule) may be idiosyncratic--It may apply only to me.

    You may hear all three from one individual (e.g., me) or in one region (e.g., Taiwan). All three are considered "standard" (at least in Taiwan).
     
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    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    The pronunciations in this table is almost correct
    Almost?

    Yes. Mandarin /r/ can be pronounced as a retroflex approximant [ɻ], retroflex non-sibilant fricative [ɻ˔], or retroflex sibilant fricative [ʐ]. The choice is determined by both dialectal factors and idiosyncratic factors.
    That was what I was thinking originally.

    Could you tell me which ones of these is taught in the YouTube video which link @lightyearsway sent? As I mentioned before, I think I hear a residue of a /ʒ/ . I am not used to these phonems.

    You may hear all three from one individual (e.g., me) or in one region (e.g., Taiwan). All three are considered "standard" (at least in Taiwan).
    How odd it that there are 3 standard pronunciations of the same letter! I guess that Chinese is not as standardized as French or German?

    Other people which live in the mainland can confirm if the same happens there?
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    Could you tell me which ones of these is taught in the YouTube video which link lightyearsway sent? As I mentioned before, I think I hear a residue of a /ʒ/
    They pronounce it as a fricative, but inconsistent in sibilation--sometimes a sibilant fricative (when you can clearly hear a "residue of a /ʒ/") and sometimes a non-sibilant fricative.
    Other people which live in the mainland can confirm if the same happens there?
    Native speakers without formal training in phonetics may not be able to provide you with correct answers. They may think they pronounce a certain sound but in fact it is a different one. For example, they may swear to God that they pronounce an approximant when it is actually a non-sibilant fricative.
    The pronunciation of R on that wiki page is just an exemplificative Retroflex approximant. It can't represent the R pronunciation in Chinese. Here's the right pronunciation
    Lightyearsway's description seems to suggest that in his opinion a fricative /r/ is more "standard" than an approximant one.
     
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    lightyearsway

    Member
    Chinese
    Thanks!

    I can hear that tip of fricative sound (as /ʒ/ in "pleasure") I mentioned before in her pronunciation of R. I guess I am hearing right? I heard from a chinese teacher that was a regionalism from the south of China and not standard Mandarin. I guess she was misinformed?
    /ʒ/ in "pleasure" and R in Pinyin are different. Comparing to /ʒ/, you need to use the tip of your tongue and point it more backward at the palate, and leave a very narrow gap between them, then phonate.

    PS: When you pronounce "R", please note that it is very similar to another consonant "Sh". Their only difference is the airflow. For "R", make sure you only exhale the airflow of phonating; For "Sh", you need to produce additional airflow.
     

    retrogradedwithwind

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    我这没受过训练的耳朵就不说话了……其实skating 说的那几个音我都不知道怎么发音的(尽管可能我实际会发那几个音但我自己意识不到)。

    As a native speaker I cannot understand what you guys talked about actually. Those nuances among the similar sounds, especially those sounds skatinginbc mentioned, are undistinguishable to my ears and, in my view, meaningless to you learners because perhaps I cannot perceive your pronunciation errors.
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    Wikipedia--Standard Chinese: ɻ~ʐ ⟨r
    Wikipedia--Standard Chinese phonology: /ɻ/ ([ɻ ~ ʐ]) (Wikipedia Footnote #2: Lee & Zee (2003) and Lin (2007) transcribe these as approximants, while Duanmu (2007) transcribes these as voiced fricatives. The actual pronunciation has been acoustically measured to be more approximant-like).
    Wikipedia--Mandarin Chinese: /ɻ ~ ʐ/ ⟨r⟩

    What does "ɻ ~ ʐ" mean? It means "on a continnum between [ɻ] and [ʐ]"--anywhere in between.

    The retroflex non-sibilant fricative [ɻ˔] is a sound between [ɻ] and [ʐ].

    "ɻ~ʐ" = "ɻ~ɻ˔~ʐ" (like a number betwen 1 and 10 = a number between 1 and 5 or between 5 and 10)

    The male and the female speakers in lightyearsway's YouTube video pronounced /r/ as [ɻ˔~ʐ] (a retroflex fricative with varying degrees of sibilation).
     
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    Alan Evangelista

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    /ʒ/ in "pleasure" and R in Pinyin are different. Comparing to /ʒ/, you need to use the tip of your tongue and point it more backward at the palate, and leave a very narrow gap between them, then phonate.
    I am aware they are different, I was (inaccurately) referring to the light shhhhhh sound (sibilant fricative) I hear in that pronunciation. As @Skatinginbc pointed, that is optional.

    Anyway, thanks for making the distinction explicit!

    Wikipedia--Standard Chinese phonology: /ɻ/ ([ɻ ~ ʐ]) (Wikipedia Footnote #2: Lee & Zee (2003) and Lin (2007) transcribe these as approximants, while Duanmu (2007) transcribes these as voiced fricatives. The actual pronunciation has been acoustically measured to be more approximant-like).
    This nailed it! I missed it when checking that wiki page. Thanks!
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    The first two /ri/ 日 (0:01 and 0:08) pronounced by the CCTV reporter 李佳明 (中央电视台节目主持人) on《防务新观察: 20190329 日本首次实战部署西南敏感岛屿排兵布阵招招为夺岛》were retroflex fricatives. However, he pronounced /r/ mostly as an approximant later on the show.

    My point:
    (1) Variants of /r/ exist in the same individual's speech, even on a CCTV news program expected to exhibit "standard" pronunciations.
    (2) /r/ is pronounced mostly as a retroflex approximant by CCTV reporters.
     
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    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    CCTV's pronunciation is surely cool.
    But I am curious why you haven't cited Taiwan's official pronunciation (of r).

    (2) /r/ is pronounced mostly as a retroflex approximant by CCTV reporters.
    Do you mean anchors? Reporters, even of CCTV, are usually not outstanding in pronunciation.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    I meant "reporters"--persons (including anchors) that report news on a TV program. I watched a few CCTV news programs and found that their reporters (including anchors) pronounced /r/ mostly as an approximant.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    Well, anchors are simply very few people with a golden tongue to lead the nation in pronunciations, while reporters are too many there to be cared about their sound.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    The pronunciations in this table is almost correct except for the sound quality is a little bit frusrtating. But basically, the "R" pronounced correctly there.
    Really? Listen to her pronunciations of ran, rang and rao. Do you really think they are acceptable? She rounded the Rs, which is a feature of American English, not of Standard Mandarin. To me, it constitutes a "foreign" (non-native) accent and might create a certain degree of difficulty in intelligibility (e.g., I might have difficulty in distinguishing her /ran/ from her /ruan/ in real-life speech).
     
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    philchinamusical

    Senior Member
    Chinese-Mandarin and Shanghai dialect
    Really? Listen to her pronunciations of ran, rang and rao. Do you really think they are acceptable? She rounded the Rs, which is a feature of American English, but not of Standard Mandarin. To me, it constitutes a "foreign" (non-native) accent and might create a certain degree of difficulty in intelligibility (e.g., I would have difficulty in distinguishing her /ran/ from her /ruan/).
    Some of her pronunciations are suspiciously not right so I had the doubts too. But some others are basically fine. And there are some noises in the clips so I blamed those for the poort recording quality. It's possible that my hearing is not quite correct.
     
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