View Full Version : Mandarin Chinese phonetics

Nov 18, 2005, 00:54
Standard Mandarin Chinese sounds are quite similar to Japanese ones, except that it has 2 more vowels and several more consonants (and of course the tones).

Chinese distinguishes between

- ü => pronounced like a German "ü" or a French "u".
- u => pronounced like a German "u" or a French "ou".

while Japanese has an intermediary sound.

Chinese also has a "e" sound like the "a" of "above".

As for the consonants, contrarily to Japanese Chinese also distinguishes between "h" and "f", and "r" and "l". In fact, a Chinese "r" is pronounced more like in English than in any other (Western) European language, but occurs normally at the end of a word (when it is silent in most British accents).

However, like Japanese, Mandarin lacks a proper "v" sounds, which is replaced by "b".

Chinese also has 2 "sh" ("sh" and "x"), 2 "ch" ("ch" and "q") and 3 "j" ("zh", "j" and "r"). The "r" is normally pronounced like a French "j" (like a "s" in 'pleasure' in English) at the beginning of a syllable.

Chinese has syllable finishing in "ng", inexistant in Japanese, as well as the "w" and "y" sounds (semi-consonants), which in Japanese are simply "u" and "i", making it impossible for Japanese speakers to pronounce "wu" or "yi".

So, standard Mandarin has 6 more consonants and 3 more semi-consonants than Japanese. It also has some strangely missing sounds in Japanese like "si" and "tu", for which only "shi" and "tsu" exist in Japanese.

NB : Please correct me if there is any mistake !