tin, din (non-existent syllables)


Senior Member
Japanese 標準語

My textbook says there are some blank spaces in the 拼音 table because it is either impossible for such a sound to be pronounced, or that it could be pronounced but there is no such sound in Chinese language.

Is there any other explanation? e.g. "It would be confusing if used in combination with other words in a sentence." ?

It seems puzzling to me because "mai" exists, so "fai" seems like it could easily exist, but it doesn't.

Such non-existent words are "tin", "din", "len", "ten", ”biu", "piu", "nui", "fai", etc.

  • fyl

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    There are two different questions here.

    First, why there are blank spaces in the Pinyin table?
    You textbook is correct on this. There is no such sound in standard Mandarin (but such sounds may exist in dialects etc, or in oral interjections like "biu"). No Chinese character has such sounds, so those places were left empty.

    Second, why those sounds do not exist in standard Mandarin?
    This is an interesting question. Below is my personal understanding.
    For "tin", "din", you may take a look at this zhihu question if you read Chinese.
    Basically, in middle Chinese, the group of consonants 端(t), 透(th), 定(d), 泥(n) could not be followed by 三等 rhymes (put it simple: rhymes starting with the i sound). This was because for those had followed by i, they turned into another group of consonants 知 澈 澄 娘 (which are now zh/ch in Mandarin, except the nasal 娘). (The only exception was "地" (di).)
    In modern Mandarin, the t consonant mostly comes from the ancient 端 透 定, and the -in rhyme mostly comes from some ancient 三等 rhymes starting with i. So there are no such sounds in Mandarin (they should be zhen/chen now). In modern Mandarin, there do exist ting/ding sounds, but they were from 四等韵 instead of 三等韵.
    The other sounds also have their own histories. There were no 'f' sound in (early) middle Chinese. 'f' was from ancient b/p sound and only when the rhymes were from a specific set (see here). 尤韵 is in this set, so 浮(middle chinese biu) now has the f consonant. The rhyme of 派 (佳韵) was not in this set, so 派 is still 'pai' and not 'fai'.
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