Pronunciation: 的 (de / di), 了 (le / liao)

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by Agarina, Jul 18, 2007.

  1. Agarina Member

    Oklahoma, U.S.
    United States; English
    The pinyin usually used for “的” is "de" but I've often heard it pronounced and seen it written as "di". Is this just a regional/colloquial thing or is it something to do with grammar? I know that “了” is usually pronounced "le" but sometimes it is gramatically incorrect as "le" and has to be pronounced "liao". Why is that?

    *Part of the question is moved to the new thread*
  2. kareno999 Senior Member

    Columbus, OH
    了liao3 is a verb, (cf 了解 了结 etc.) eg, 我终于了(liao3)了(le)一桩心事.
    When appearing in a song, 的 了can be (not necessarily) pronounced like "di" "liao" even if they serve as grammatical particles.

    *Part of the answer is moved to the new thread* 谁 - shei / shui
  3. kkmp

    kkmp Member

    Middle Earth, Mandarin
    Chinese words can be categorized into two groups: real words (实词) and unreal words, or, functional words(虚词). Real words include nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, numbers etc. Unreal words include adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections etc.

    Both 的 and 了 happen to be both real and unreal words. When the two play different roles as real and unreal words, their pronunciations change. Below is a brief list of their functions, meanings and corresponding pronunciations.

    的 : real word, adverb : dí : truly, indeed : as in 的确.
    的 : real word, noun : dì : target, goal : as in 目的.
    的 : unreal word, auxilary particle : de : used in many situations, for example 1) used between an adjective and a noun:黑色的 头发(black hair);2) used between a pronoun and a noun:他的 车(his car),etc.

    了: real word, verb: liǎo : understand, see : as in 明了.
    了: real word, verb: liǎo : finish : as in 了结.
    了: unreal word, auxilary particle: le : used after a verb or adjective meaning an action is finished or a state is over: 信写完了(The letter is finished).

    There are many other situations where 的 & 了 are used. For details a textbook or dictionary is highly advised. It should also be mentioned that when 的 & 了 are spoken as unreal words, their pronunciations are weaker than those of normal characters.

    *Part of the answer is moved to the new thread* 谁 - shei / shui

    BTW: There is another word 着 which can be used as both real (zhuó, zhāo) and unreal (zhe).
  4. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    实词[實詞] shící n. 〈lg.〉 notional/plerematic word;
    虚词[虛詞] xūcí* n. 〈lg.〉 function/form/cenematic/empty/syncategorematic word; functive; particle

    Interesting insight, thanks, always wondered about the Chinese grammar from the Chinese point of view.
  5. goodatchinese Member

    In my opinion , it's just a polyphone issue in Chinese. Don't try to find some patterns for them, cause there are so many and every one has its own behavior. Just try to keep the pronunciation in your mind, speak more, and let it be your instinct.
  6. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Bắc Kinh
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    I only heard Malaysians and Singaporeans pronounce 了 as liao when it should be le (我吃饭liao,我完liao)。


    台湾老歌这样念,但是台湾新歌都念 de 和 le,这个跟台湾有什么关系。

  7. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Mandarin 國語
    唱歌时, “的”也常念di, e.g., 《中国国歌》冒着敌人的(di)炮火
    台灣老演員演的古裝歷史劇, 為製造復古效果, 常把"了"讀liao3. 這是一種藝術講究, 使文言和白話相雜的臺詞, 不顯得突兀. 《大秦帝国》裡台灣演員李立群就liao來liao去的, 和le個不停的大陸演員形成對比, 因此就給人一種 "liao是台湾口音"的錯覺.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2015
  8. retrogradedwithwind Senior Member


  9. brofeelgood

    brofeelgood Senior Member

    Zürich, Switzerland
    English, 中文
    Indeed. The pronunciation was likely carried over from the major dialects (Hokkien/Teochew etc) where 了 sounds like "liao" in pinyin, e.g. 依死了 (transliterated with pinyin, this would be yi-xi-liao)

    I believe what gave rise to this misunderstanding was Taiwan's overwhelming dominance in the commercial music industry during the 70s-90s. Like you rightly pointed out, even 义勇军进行曲 has 的(di) and 了(liao). In my opinion, di/liao and de/le in lyrics are simply pronunciations from different eras.
  10. fyl Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese

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