Pinyin pronunciation: x

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maghanish2

Senior Member
United States - English
大家好,

I have listened to various Chinese speakers and read different books and each one pronounces the "x" differently. For example in the words:
喜歡, 謝謝, 一下兒

Some people pronounce the sound more similar to an "s", while for others it resembles an "sh" sound. I would like to know if there is a "standard" pronunciation, or if it is simply a matter of regional dialects. For example is it pronounced differently in Taiwan? Beijing? Shanghai?

謝謝你們!
 
  • I would like to know if there is a "standard" pronunciation.
    Of course. In standard mandarin, "z c s g k h zh ch sh" can't exist before "i u iu(ü)".
    j q x are usually described as [tɕ][tɕʰ][ɕ], which is a little like a combination of [ʃ](sh in "she") and [j](y in "yes"). "xi" is more closed to an English "shee" than "see".
    if it is simply a matter of regional dialects.
    I think so.
     
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    le petit chevalier

    New Member
    English - U.S.
    The typical "standard" pronunciation is a lot better illustrated with Taiwan's Tongyong Pinyin system where (I'm relatively certain) they used "hs" instead of "x", e.g. "hsiao" = "xiao."
    Depending on where they're from, people will pronounce it anywhere from nearly an "sh" sound to an "s" sound, so anywhere in the middle should be good for you :)
     
    Pronouncing it anywhere from nearly an "sh"(if you mean English "sh"?) sound to an "s" sound is generally regarded as southern Chinese tongue(for example, Cantonese, Southern Min language including Taiwanese, Hakka and so on. But not Shanghai language.).

    Anyone from Northern China can easily tell the difference between "si-" and "x-". They prefer to pronounce English "she" as "xi", but pronounce "see" as "sei"(sometimes "xi"). For example: CCTV [si.si.ti.vi] = sei sei ti wei[sei.sei.ti.wei]

    “hs” is not used in the Tongyong Pinyin system but in the old Wade-Giles system.
    In the Wade-Giles system, j q x are written as ch ch' hs.
    In the Tongyong Pinyin system, j q x become ji ci si.
    In the MPS II(also used in Taiwan), j q x are written as ji chi shi.
    So the transcript itself can't illustrate anything.
     

    shivasprogeny

    Member
    English - Ohio, USA
    The typical "standard" pronunciation is a lot better illustrated with Taiwan's Tongyong Pinyin system where (I'm relatively certain) they used "hs" instead of "x", e.g. "hsiao" = "xiao."
    Depending on where they're from, people will pronounce it anywhere from nearly an "sh" sound to an "s" sound, so anywhere in the middle should be good for you :)
    We should be careful to point out that while the sound sounds similar to an s or sh, the actual tongue placement is different. The x in pinyin involves putting the tip of the tongue down, not up. The air should flow over the top of the tongue, not the tip.
     

    le petit chevalier

    New Member
    English - U.S.
    Oh my mistake, sorry about the confusion of Tongyong pinyin and Wade-Giles.
    And you're right, the tongue's placement is different. Because of that, in English we tend to pucker our lips when we make the "sh" sound, which is very much absent in the "x" of Pinyin.
     

    Dragonseed

    Senior Member
    France - French
    The best explanation that I heard for this sound is to try and replicate the final consonant of the German word "Ich" (first person singular pronoun, the "I" of English, "je" in French). Of course, that supposes that you know, or at least can remember, some German...

    The physical description of what you do with your mouth also helps:
    - lips like you want to pronounce a "i / ee" sound
    - tip of the tong behind your lower incisives
    - back of the tong close to the roof of your mouth
    - expell some air (this is why it is called a "fricative" consonant) between the tongue and the roof of the mouth.

    Note that yes, regional pronounciations vary, and we (Taiwanese) tend to be a little lazy on the consonants, and pronounce the pinyin "x", "sh" and "s" almost the same way... ^_^
     

    shivasprogeny

    Member
    English - Ohio, USA
    The best explanation that I heard for this sound is to try and replicate the final consonant of the German word "Ich" (first person singular pronoun, the "I" of English, "je" in French). Of course, that supposes that you know, or at least can remember, some German..
    Are you sure that's for pinyin x? The IPA [x] is the sound you just described which is the pinyin h.

    This is quite different from the pinyin x which is IPA [ɕ].
     

    Dragonseed

    Senior Member
    France - French
    hello shivasprogeny,

    I am quite sure that this is how I've been pronouncing it for the past 15 years... :)

    The pinyin 'h' is a gutural sound, not a palatal fricative (if that's what phonologist call 'x').
    But there are also certainly variations in the German pronounciation of "ich", and I sort of remember it can be gutural too in certain regions...

    Sorry if this actually increases the confusion... I thought it would help!...x_x''
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    Are you sure that's for pinyin x? The IPA [x] is the sound you just described which is the pinyin h.
    The ch in Ich is not IPA [x]. The ch in German has two sounds, depending on whether it follows the front vowels (i, e) or the back vowels (a, o, u). In the former case, it's like the pinyin x; in the latter, like the pinyin h.
     

    shivasprogeny

    Member
    English - Ohio, USA
    hello shivasprogeny,

    I am quite sure that this is how I've been pronouncing it for the past 15 years... :)

    The pinyin 'h' is a gutural sound, not a palatal fricative (if that's what phonologist call 'x').
    But there are also certainly variations in the German pronounciation of "ich", and I sort of remember it can be gutural too in certain regions...

    Sorry if this actually increases the confusion... I thought it would help!...x_x''
    Maybe its different in Taiwan (I notice that's what your location is) but in standard Mandarin pinyin h= IPA [x].
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin#Finals

    To Ghabi, take a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_phonology#Ich-Laut_and_ach-Laut

    The sound [ɕ] isn't in standard German.
     

    Ghabi

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    I think what Dragonseed means is simply that the [ç] in German is close to the [ɕ] in Mandarin, and when s/he says pinyin h is a "guttural sound", s/he means it's the IPA [x]. I don't understand what's our disagreement.:confused:
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    The typical "standard" pronunciation is a lot better illustrated with Taiwan's Tongyong Pinyin system where (I'm relatively certain) they used "hs" instead of "x", e.g. "hsiao" = "xiao."
    Exactly.
    By the way, the hs spelling was first used by the French (to transcribe Chinese) in the 1880ies, in the transcription called EFEO (Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient), originally in Vietnam (Annam at that time, French Indochina).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EFEO_Chinese_transcription
    Regarding pin-yin x , my guess is that it is inspired from Catalan (caixa etc).
     

    viajero_canjeado

    Senior Member
    English - Southeastern USA
    In Taiwan, I noticed the discrepancy between the sound we're discussing ("x" in pinyin), and asked a group of college students about it. When I made the two sounds in a row - an "s" sound and then a "sh" sound, both of which I pronounced as I would in English - some of my Taiwanese classmates didn't even hear a difference. It was like it was the same sound to them...
    Of course, my Chinese was still basic, and their English imperfect, so there might have been communication barriers coming into play.
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    When I made the two sounds in a row - an "s" sound and then a "sh" sound, both of which I pronounced as I would in English - some of my Taiwanese classmates didn't even hear a difference.
    There are two points here :
    .first, THREE sounds are involved : xi,shi,si (but in the case of si , the sound of the vowel i will also be different, giving a sound close to French "ce" (that)
    .second, it is true that amongst the many dialects (especially in Mainland China) in Chinese, the difference between these three sounds is not always perceived the same way (when speaking Mandarin/Pekinese Chinese)
    a subsidiary point in that Taiwan has a dialect and a pronounciation of its own (close to Fujianese) where xi,shi,si are not differentiated as in Mandarin.
     
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    samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    In my area "xi" is usually pronounced like the letter C (ie. A B C is pronounced "ei" "bi" "xi")
    But some people pronounce "xi" like the English "she" (and the English "she" is a sound between "xi" and "xu"), in which case, their "xu" will be pronounced with a heavier "yu" sound.

    a subsidiary point in that Taiwan has a dialect and a pronounciation of its own (close to Fujianese) where xi,shi,si are not differentiated as in Mandarin.
    Indeed, but it's more of a "sub-dialect" pronunciation issue, not an unable-to-differentiate issue. This also appears for the "ti" and "qi" sound, where some will say "tit-tou" and others say "qit-tou" (meaning: playing).
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    it's more of a "sub-dialect" pronounciation issue, not an unable-to-differentiate issue
    of course, but still, the remark made by Viajero C.
    When I made the two sounds in a row - an "s" sound and then a "sh" sound, both of which I pronounced as I would in English - some of my Taiwanese classmates didn't even hear a difference. It was like it was the same sound to them...
    fits here. I don't know whether those Taiwanese classmates were unable to make the difference or just didn't make the difference, but the fact is that there was some "hearing" problem here ...
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    The drawing is fine.
    In fact, xi is very close to the English he (more than English she but in-between the two somewhat). That is why a transcription like hsi (something between h and sh) is justified.
    A difference on the same level exists between qi and chi (but here again, same thing as with si , the i in chi will be pronounced differently, close to the i in "sir").
     

    maghanish2

    Senior Member
    United States - English
    Wow. Thank you all for the great answers! It seems this topic is still not completely resolved but it's interesting to hear what you all have to say.

    謝謝你們!
     

    indigoduck

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    大家好,
    I have listened to various Chinese speakers and read different books and each one pronounces the "x" differently. For example in the words:
    喜歡, 謝謝, 一下兒

    Some people pronounce the sound more similar to an "s", while for others it resembles an "sh" sound. I would like to know if there is a "standard" pronunciation, or if it is simply a matter of regional dialects. For example is it pronounced differently in Taiwan? Beijing? Shanghai?

    謝謝你們!
    Sounds in chinese (all dialects) are basically composed of combinations of an initial, vowel and possibly a final.

    The system used in Mainland China and Taiwan is a little different but the basic definition is the same since "mandarin" is what we have in common, without worrying about the regional intricacies for vocab, etc etc.

    In Mainland China, they use Pinyin.
    In Taiwan, they use Bo Po Mo Fo.

    These systems define all the initials, vowels and finals of Mandarin Chinese.

    As a foreign born, i learned Bo Po Mo Fo, but later I learned Pinyin because i use a english language keyboard, Pinyin is more friendly to type since it uses ABC, whereas Taiwan uses a totally different Script and you gotta memorize those and they have no relation to chinese except to help kids pronounce chinese characters. Children books have those characters beside each chinese character... (similar to the "kana" written beside a Kanji to help Japanese identify a kanji). Those bo po mo character keyboards cost a fortune compared to my ABC keyboard. Plus being english speaker, i relate better using Pinyin than i can with BPMF.

    Why did Taiwan have to be so complicated !? No idea ...

    The "X" character you refer to corresponds in Pinyin to a character that looks like "T" using Taiwan's BO PO MO FO, but they are the same "initial" and no matter which side of the Taiwan strait you're standing, the CDs and Tapes for learning this initial is pronounced pretty much the same way like the "Sh" in Sh*t or "Sh" to tell everyone to be quiet.

    Why did Mainland China use "X" ? As an english speaker, it made no sense to me (Xylophone sounds nothing like the way it should sound and anglophones batter "sounds" like Xiao terribly)... until i realized the letter "S" was already taken to represent a very complicated Mandarin Chinese initial that deserves more attention than the easier "X" sound.

    The "S" was already used to represent the voiced and voiceless (The rolling and unrolling tongue):

    Pinyin: Z C S vs ZH CH SH

    ~~~~

    The answer to does Taiwan and China pronounce this initial the same ?

    This is too complicated of a question. But to give you a simple answer, in general, those who pronounce it correctly will pronounce it 99% the same no matter which side of the Taiwan strait you are (especially good teachers in Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei and even Hong Kong, or anywhere in the chinese world) ... not just for this initial but for all initials, vowels and finals.

    Those who don't are those who have a bias to their own dialect or regional accent ... which we can't do anything about as they really are "trying" their best to pronounce it right. As a learner, you have two choices: you can imitate them (then be perceived as mocking them), or try your best to say it right and learn it properly.

    But in general, it should sound like the initial of "SHape" when pronounced in English, or "SHanghai" when pronounced in English.

    The "Sh" sound that everyone is talking about.
     
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    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    Why did Mainland China use "X" ? As an english speaker, it made no sense to me
    I gave a possible answer in my post #14.
    I think that the use of x to render that particular sound in Chinese was very clever (for lack of a better alternative) and shows that even in the 50ies (when pin yin was devised) a troubled time for China, Chinese linguists and phonologist knew what they were doing.
     

    indigoduck

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Exactly.
    By the way, the hs spelling was first used by the French (to transcribe Chinese) in the 1880ies, in the transcription called EFEO (Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient), originally in Vietnam (Annam at that time, French Indochina).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EFEO_Chinese_transcription
    Regarding pin-yin x , my guess is that it is inspired from Catalan (caixa etc).
    Very nice ! OR they were multilingual like me :p

    Caixa in portuguese as well
     
    Exactly.
    By the way, the hs spelling was first used by the French (to transcribe Chinese) in the 1880ies, in the transcription called EFEO (Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient), originally in Vietnam (Annam at that time, French Indochina).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EFEO_Chinese_transcription
    Regarding pin-yin x , my guess is that it is inspired from Catalan (caixa etc).
    The transcription of the EFEO did not borrow its phonetics from the national official Mandarin. Rather, it was synthesized independently to be a mean of Chinese dialects, and shows a state of sounds a little older in form (as in Latinxua Sinwenz and the older version of Wade-Giles). Hence, certain words which phoneme is [tɕ] (Pinyin: /j/), have been transcribed as either /ts/ or /k/.
    x is h/s, not hs. hs is used in Wade-Giles, not EFEO.
    Some linguists use /hi/ /si/ to reflect the difference in middle Chinese. But /hi/ have been palatalized to [ɕ] handreds years ago. Latter /si/ is also palatalized to [ɕ]. Last century, the difference didn't exist in Mandarin any more.
    If you are speaking Cantonese, you can hear sounds like ki- si-. /i/ is not palatalized because they simply lost all middle -i- sound, except for -in -ing -im -it -ik -ip in which /i/ took the main vowel's place.
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    x is h/s, not hs. hs is used in Wade-Giles, not EFEO.
    that is what is said in the Wiki article.
    But I am not sure it is right. I have no example in mind but that would mean that "they" would have mixed TWO sounds, rather different, in ONE letter ...
     

    indigoduck

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    x is h/s, not hs. hs is used in Wade-Giles, not EFEO.
    Some linguists use /hi/ /si/ to reflect the difference in middle Chinese. But /hi/ have been palatalized to [ɕ] handreds years ago. Latter /si/ is also palatalized to [ɕ]. Last century, the difference didn't exist in Mandarin any more.
    If you are speaking Cantonese, you can hear sounds like ki- si-. /i/ is not palatalized because they simply lost all middle -i- sound, except for -in -ing -im -it -ik -ip in which /i/ took the main vowel's place.
    Actually, that wiki page says that it's s/h not h/s. Which one is right ?

    How would one pronounce s/h ? Does "s/h" mean that you have a choice of using "s" or "h"

    I know that a lot of "x" pinyin sound words are pronounced as either initial "s" or "h" (and not both for the same word) in cantonese. Is that what this "s/h" means ?
     
    Yes. It shows a quite old phonemic system. For example, /ü/ is still /iu/ in this system. But in modern Mandarin any /i/ before a round vowel becomes /ü/. For example yong /iong/ = [yʊŋ]; yu /iu/ = [y].
    The two group [s][ts][ts']+/i/, [x][k][k']+/i/ are the two main (but not all) origins of j q x group.
     
    My Chinese teacher in Beijing taught me to make the pinyin 'x' this way:

    put your tongue against your BOTTOM teeth, then say 's'. The result is a slight lisp, turning the sound into 'sy'. eg 喜欢 xihuan becomes "syihuan".
     

    Peripes

    Senior Member
    Español, Perú
    大家好!

    Some time ago I was listening to some audio exercises from a link in the resource thread, and heard the Pinyin "x" realized as [s] rather than [ɕ], for example 香 as [siaŋ˥] rather than [ɕiaŋ˥]. I was wondering if this was acceptable and common in speech. I think that it could, since xi and si cannot be confused with one another, for example, 四 is pronounced [sɨ˥˩] instead of [si˥˩].

    Thank you all :)
     
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    fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    It's incorrect to pronounce 香 as [siaŋ˥]. But even if you do it, I think people can understand you.

    四 is a different story.
    [sɨ˥˩] is the correct sound (in fact the vowel is not exactly ɨ), and [si˥˩] would be almost unintelligible in Mandarin. In pinyin, i does not represent the sound after z,c,s,zh,ch,sh,r.
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    In Taiwan, they use Bo Po Mo Fo...and they have no relation to chinese except to help kids pronounce chinese characters.
    That statement is misleading because the Bopomofo script is actually derived from ancient Chinese characters. For example, the phonetic notation ㄅ (bo) is derived from the radical 勹 (bao), the ancient form of 包 (bao). Also, the notation 丅 (ɕi) is an ancient form of 下 (xia).
    Why did Taiwan have to be so complicated !? No idea ...
    For those who are versed in ancient Chinese characters, the phonetic value of each Bopomofo letter is easy to remember if the etymology of each letter is introduced. The system does not demand learning of a foreign alphabet (e.g., Latin alphabet, which is employed by the pinyin system). It was designed for the Chinese people of the early 20th century when not many Chinese people could read the English letters.
    Why did Mainland China use "X" ?
    Since Mandarin [ɕ] does not have a Latin or English equivalent, I think the pinyin system resorts to its Middle Chinese pronunciation: Mandarin ɕ < Middle Chinese *x. For example, 香 MC *xi̯aŋ > Mandarin ɕiaŋ.
    Taiwan has a dialect and a pronounciation of its own (close to Fujianese) where xi,shi,si are not differentiated as in Mandarin.
    Mandarin has [ɕi] (as in 西 and 喜) but no [si] (cf. 思 [sɯ]). It has [sa] (as in 撒) but no [ɕa] (cf. 下 [ɕia]). In other words, Mandarin [ɕ] and [s] are in complementary distribution. Like Mandarin, Taiwanese Hokkien [ɕ] and [s] are in complementary distribution as well. I don't understand why some posters think that [si] for 香 is possibly a Taiwanese feature. Coronal fricative /si/ is realized as alveolo-palatal [ɕi] in Taiwanese (e.g., English letter C is commonly pronounced as [ɕi] by Taiwanese speakers as a result of language transfer). Above all, 香 is read as /hiɔŋ/ in Taiwanese Kokkien (e.g., 香港 "Hongkong" Hokkien [hiɔŋ kaŋ]). It just seems impossible that interference from the Taiwanese language would yield an [s] for 香.
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    pronounces the "x" differently. For example in the words: 喜歡, 謝謝, 一下兒...is it pronounced differently in Taiwan?...
    Taiwanese speakers should have no problem in pronouncing the [ɕ] in 喜 [ɕi], 下 [ɕia], and 香 [ɕiaŋ]. They however may have trouble with 謝 [ɕie] due to absence of the [ie] sequence in Taiwanese Hokkien. To preserve the vowel [e], linguistic interference from Taiwanese would result in the omission of the medial [i], which is necessary for proper pronunciation of [ɕ], a conditioned allophone of [s] appearing only before [i]. Without [i], [ɕ] would change to [s]. So 謝 may sound like [se] if the speaker carries a strong Taiwanese accent.

    By the way, 謝 is /sia/ ([ɕia]) in Taiwanese Hokkien. Taiwanese speakers can accurately pronounce the [ɕ] in Taiwanese 謝 ([ɕia]), but may have trouble with the [ɕ] in Mandarin 謝 <xie> ([ɕie]). Interesting, isn't it?

    While weakening of the medial [i] may result in an [s]-like <x>, rounded <x> (as in <xu>虚 or <xue> 學) may sound like [ʃ]. Thus to grasp those subtle variations of the <x> sound, one must not isolate it from its linguistic environment (i.e., the medial and/or vowel that follows it).
     
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    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    Mandarin <x> occurs only before high front vowels ([i] or [y]) or palatal glides ([j] or [ɥ]).
    Unrounded <x>: for example, 西 xi ([ɕi] ), 香 xiang (/ɕiaŋ/ or more accurately [ɕjaŋ]).
    Rounded <x>: for example, 虚 xu ([ʃy]), 學 xue ([ʃɥe] or [ʃwe]) (Note: The phonetic transcriptions are based on my own habit of pronunciation).
    That is to say, [ʃ] is a conditioned allophone of [ɕ] to me. And I have always been under the impression that rounded <x> pronounced as [ʃ] is the "standard" (標準國語).

    I'm fully aware that [ʃ] and [ɕ] are two different sounds:
    1. [ʃ] is domed, with the front of the tongue bunched up ("domed") at the palate. [ɕ] is laminal, meaning that the sound is produced by obstructing the air passage with the flat (blade) of the tongue.
    2. [ʃ] is partially palatalized, whereas [ɕ] is heavily palatalized with the flat (blade) of the tongue placed close to the hard palate (the front roof of the mouth).

    How is the rounded <x> pronounced in "標準"普通話? Is it a [ʃ] or a [ɕ]? I think it is a [ʃ].
     

    fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    How is the rounded <x> pronounced in "標準"普通話? Is it a [ʃ] or a [ɕ]? I think it is a [ʃ].
    I think it's [ɕ].
    This pronunciation https://www.moedict.tw/虛 from a Taiwan dictionary is a bit alien to me, and I believe it's a [ʃ].
    But this one https://www.moedict.tw/學 does not sound alien at all (I mean the consonant part), is it a [ɕ]?
    Mainland northerners usually pronounce like this http://www.forvo.com/word/需/#zh, http://www.forvo.com/word/须/#zh

    (My ears are not trained, and the sound [ʃ] is a big trouble for me, so I'm not exactly sure with the above.)
     

    fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    I think it is less palatalized than my pronunciation, and is probably [ʃ].
    For 薛靴穴 on that dictionary, I'm able to perceive both [ʃ] and [ɕ], depending on what I'm thinking in mind... Probably they are something in between.
    (I don't trust my ears, especially since I learnt about weird things like the McGurk effect (search on youtube or youku).)

    I tend to believe that the round <x> in Taiwan (probably [ʃ]) is indeed less palatalized than that sound in mainland (probably [ɕ]), according my first perceptions of the above sounds of 萌典 and forvo.
     
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    brofeelgood

    Senior Member
    English, 中文
    Intriguing thread, a bit shocking in fact, to realise I may have been pronouncing words incorrectly my entire life. In my opinion, IPA phonetics are close but not fully capable of encapsulating the full accuracy of the pinyin representations like "x".

    To me,
    xi (西席喜戏) - it's between s and ɕ, definitely nearer to s. (if "see" [si] is 1 and "she" [ʃi] is 10, then this is probably a 3)
    xu (需徐许续) - it's between ɕ and ʃ, closer to ɕ.

    Same goes for j (e.g. jī 机) and q (e.g. qī 七).

    It may be just me, but there seems to be a propensity in today's pronunciation to lean towards the other end of the ranges denoted above. I hear it in songs all the time (artistic flair?), but less so in daily conversations. As a result, it irks me no end to hear some modern artists render 喜欢 as SHE WHO-ONE (<- read it in English with the correct Chinese tones). Somehow, the trend seems to be gathering momentum with alacrity and spreading like wildfire. More strangely perhaps, it's even infiltrated the Cantonese in Hong Kong where ɕ/ʃ are supposedly non-existent. Well, enough gripes in one post...

    By the way, are you guys able to discern the nuance between the following? I believe the actual difference is bigger than how it sounds in the recordings, but without paying close attention here, I would have missed it entirely. :(
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ɕ ɕ
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ʃ ʃ
     

    Skatinginbc

    Senior Member
    Mandarin 國語
    IPA phonetics are close but not fully capable of encapsulating the full accuracy of the pinyin representations like "x".
    That's why I wrote "Is it a [ʃ] or a [ɕ]" instead of "Is it [ʃ] or [ɕ]". I meant "Is it a kind of [ʃ] or a kind of [ɕ]".
    Love Language (Post #29) said that when teaching the [ɕ] sound, a Mandarin teacher instructed them to put the tongue against the bottom teeth. Let's call this position "front" (the tip of the tongue placed close to the bottom teeth). When pronouncing [ʃ], my tip of the tongue moves back behind the bottom alveolar ridge and bunches up somewhat, forming a dome shape. Let's call this position "back" (the tip of the tongue placed farther away from the teeth). This "front vs. back" contrast is clear for me in distinguishing a [ɕ] from a [ʃ]. I can feel my tongue move back when I pronounce the rounded <x> 许 in 些许. To me, the front-to-back order of the tongue position goes like this: ɕ→ʃ→ʂ.
    xi (西席喜戏) - it's between s and ɕ...xu (需徐许续) - it's between ɕ and ʃ...It may be just me, but there seems to be a propensity in today's pronunciation to lean towards the other end of the ranges denoted above.
    Both ends of the <x> range (i.e., [s] and [ʃ]) are ones with weakened palatalization. So what you observed is basically a tendency of weakened palatalization. Cantonese has undergone a depalatalization process in sibilants (e.g., Pre-1950s Cantonese /ɕœːŋ/ > Modern Cantonese /sœːŋ/ 傷). The trend might be spreading to Mandarin if your observation holds true.
    are you guys able to discern the nuance between the following?...
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ɕ ɕ
    His second attempt (i.e., /aɕa:/) is better. It sounds like a palatalized /ʃ/ (i.e., [ʃʲ]] to me, which may be counted as /ɕ/ in some languages (but still a /ʃ/ in my book because of the tongue position).
    Same goes for j (e.g. jī 机) and q (e.g. qī 七).
    My unrounded <q> sounds like /t͡ɕ/ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Voiceless_alveolo-palatal_affricate.ogg).
    My rounded <q> sounds like /t͡ʃ/ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Voiceless_palato-alveolar_affricate.ogg)
    My unrounded <j> sounds like /d͡ʑ/ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Voiced_alveolo-palatal_affricate.ogg)
    My rounded <j> sounds like /d͡ʒʲ/ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Voiced_palato-alveolar_affricate.ogg)
    I expect those who substitute [ɕ] with [s] would have [t͡s] for [t͡ɕ], and [d͡z] for [d͡ʑ] if the same paradigm is followed.
     
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    jos.dan

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Guatemala)
    大家好!
    I have a question regarding the sound represented by "x" in pinyin. According to all the transcriptions I've found in Wiktionary for words in Mandarin with "x", this letter represents the voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative [ɕ]. However, sometimes I hear a sound closer to an alveolar fricative, perhaps the retracted version seen in European Spanish [s̺], for example.

    “学校”的发音:如何用汉语, 日语, 粤语, 吴语, 闽南语, 福州, 湘语, 客家语, 闽东语, 晋语发音“学校”
    “象形”的发音:如何用日语, 粤语, 汉语发音“象形”

    These recordings are good examples of what I mean: all people in Forvo pronounce 学校 as I expected – with /ɕ/–, but the recording for 象形 sound more like [s̺] to me.

    First question: am I right in thinking that 象形 is not pronounced with [ɕ]? Keep in mind that this phoneme doesn't exist in Spanish, or even English, so it might just be that I don't recognize this sound properly. But if I am right, is the pronunciation of x closer to something regional?

    Thanks in advance :)
     
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    corner1912

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    honestly when we were learning pinyin, we pronounced "j, q, x" as "ji, qi, xi". And also ‘x’ is always accompanied with 'i', so we never considered what 'x' should be pronounced.
     

    jos.dan

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Guatemala)
    Yes! Somebody told me about that but I forgot :)) But my question is the same: do people sometimes pronounce "xi" like [s̺i] and not like [ɕi]?
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    As far as I know, it is [sʲi] (with a palatalized sibilant) in the Beijing dialect, and that pronunciation is pretty widespread in modern standard Chinese (as we can see at Forvo, for example), despite the orthoepic standard being actually [ɕi]. In fact, the only articulatory difference between [sʲ] and [ɕ] is that the latter is grooved and the former isn't; many other languages also have these as possible variations of the same phoneme (Japanese, Polish etc.).
     
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    corner1912

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Yes! Somebody told me about that but I forgot :)) But my question is the same: do people sometimes pronounce "xi" like [s̺i] and not like [ɕi]?
    sorry i don'know the phonetic symbol [ɕi], but for us, the pronunciation of 'xi' is always the same. that is to say "校” and "象” are all begin with something like "吸” or "西”,you can pronounce "校” as "西 一 奥 —— 校” and “象” as “西 一 盎(ang)—— 象” haha
     

    jos.dan

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Guatemala)
    As far as I know, it is [sʲi] (with a palatalized sibilant) in the Beijing dialect
    Thanks a lot Awwal12... that makes everything much clearer, especially coming from a Russian speaker since I'm more familiar with Russian phonology than with Chinese... It seems Standard Mandarin phonology differs greatly from the one used by Chinese people on their everyday life.

    sorry i don'know the phonetic symbol [ɕi], but for us, the pronunciation of 'xi' is always the same. that is to say "校” and "象” are all begin with something like "吸” or "西”,you can pronounce "校” as "西 一 奥 —— 校” and “象” as “西 一 盎(ang)—— 象” haha
    Thanks corner1912... I think I've been learning Mandarin phonetics wrong from the beginning. Now I understand that "x", or any consonant for that matter, should not be considered separate... it always occurs with a vowel sound.
     
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