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The Tone Modification Rules of Mandarin Chinese Pinyin

December 31st, 2009 - by Huang Jason


Some time when we speak Mandarin Chinese, the tone of some Chinese character will be changed. It happened so naturally that most of us may not notice it. Here are some simple rules of tone changes, which we use Chinese pinyin to clarify.
 
1. The 3rd tone is a changeable tone. When two 3rd tones come together, the first 3rd tone should be changed into a 2nd tone,
e.g., nĭ hăo (hello) should be pronounced ní hăo.
 
2. When a sentence has three third tones next to each other, it can be changed into the following two patterns: 2-2-3 / 3-2-3.
For example: wŏ hĕn hăo (I am fine) can be pronounced either wŏ hén hăo or wó hén hăo.
 
3. Some elements in Chinese sentence like particles pronounced as light tone (the 5th tone):
nĭ hăo ma. (ma ba la ne)
 
4. Words with repeated characters: xiè xie / mā ma / jiĕ jie
 
5. 4-4 tones or 1-4 tones pronounced as 2-4. Like bu4-yao4 = bu2 yao4.

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