What is that 1,2,3, 4 behind the pinyin?
Which nine sounds you need to know for typing Chinese?
Why use two syllable-word, sometimes with the same meaning.
Chinese is a tonale language
In modern Chinese, every syllable has four different tone pitches (sisheng 四
high pitch (yinsheng 陰聲),
rising pitch (yangsheng 陽聲),
lower rising pitch (shangsheng 上聲), and
falling pitch (qusheng 去聲).
In the pinyin text I quote, I use
1,2,3,4 instead of symbols to demonstrate the four above tones.
The quickly falling tone pitch (rusheng 入聲) that once marked a final voiceless stop, disappeared
during the end of Song and the Yuan Dynasties. Finally, in two-syllable-words, the second
syllable is sometimes unaccented, so to say a pitchless tone (lingsheng 零聲).
In Cantonese exist eight different tone pitches: high, upper rising, upper falling, upper entering,
low, lower rising, lower falling, and lower entering; in daily use they are reduced to six.
The most confusing sound I find when I type Chinese word using pinyin is the
J ㄐ zh ㄓ z ㄗ
q ㄑ ch ㄔ c ㄘ
x ㄒ shㄕ s ㄙ
[b] b [d] d [g] g [dj] j [d] zh [dz] z [p] p [t] t [k] k [tç] q [ts] c [t] ch
[m] m [n] n [x, h] h [ç] x [s] s  ch
[f] f [l] l  r
Since most of Chinese soft ware gives the suggested words after the first 1 or
two consonants, if you know the difference of the above, then you can easily find
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the words you wanted. (I post them in front of the monitor).This work for me after
struggling so long to attempt typing Chinese characters in Zhuyin.
It is estimated that modern chineses is simplified to 400 syllable x 4 tones = 1600
sounds. So with only 400 sounds one could pronounce all the Chinese
The following examples show you the homophony and the reason why in
Chinese simplification process, pinyin can not substitute the actual characters
rdYi” for example. Farng –Yi is 2 sound. Take “
yi1 yi1 yi1
醫 一 衣 醫 = medicine; 一 = one; 衣= cloth
yi2 yi2 yi2
移 疑 = Happy ;移 = move; 疑 =suspect
yi3 yi3 yi3 yi3
蟻 以 乙 椅 蟻 = ant; 以 =using ;乙 = second; 椅 = chair
yi4 yi4 yi4 yi4
義 毅 逸 憶 義 =justice, meaning 毅 = will power; 逸= leisure; 憶=recall
Now, you may add above to your GB vocabulary. Remember , there are only 400
sound and 1000 words to learn.
The problem in reconstructing old Chinese language is that we do know how words were written,
but because Chinese script is not a sound script (at least not in general) but a symbolic script, we
do know nothing about the pronunciation of the old words. Only the researches of Bernard
Karlgren (1889-1978) and E. G. Pulleyblank (* 1922) helped to reconstruct middle Chinese (Tang
to Song Dynasties) and finally old and archaic Chinese. Both used the rime dictionaries of the
Tang and Song Dynasties (Qieyun and Guangyun) and rime groups of the oldest poetry book, the
Shijing. Frome these studies, we see that the final sound system of old Chinese was much more
complex than today. While we have today only open syllables (without consonant: cha, ji, bo, dao)
and the two finals -n (fan, lun, jin) and -ng (fang, cheng, qing). In old Chinese there were also finals like -l, -m, -g, -k, -t, and -p, in archaic Chinese even -gs. And there existed sound clusters at
the begin of a syllable, like gl-, hl-, tr-, mj-, shw- and so on. Such a sound system makes old
Chinese much more similar to Tibetian and Burmese.
Compared to this, modern Chinese sounds quite crippled and oversimplified. Even at the begin of the 20th century, there existed not so much vowel-less syllables like in modern Chinese,
like the seven syllables [d][t],[dz][ts][s]. Syllables like [dzi] or [tsi] have died out. Southern
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dialects (or languages?) in China still show final consonants like -m, -p, -t and -k. Chinese
loanwords in Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese show the vanished syllable endings. The
Chinese loanword "law" (modern Chinese falü, old Chinese something like paplüet) in Korean is pôp, in Japanese a little bit forced to hôritsu, in Vietnamese turned around to luât pháp. Southern Chinese dialects like Cantonese still today show the ancient syllable endings: "law" in Cantonese
is faatleuht. The simplification of the language was due to the central administration in a vast
empire that allowed people to come around. Different dialects had to near each other and step by
step threw away difficult sounds.
Reading alound a text in classical written language, the listeners are hardly able to understand a
great part of the text. Measurements of the spoken language to encounter this homophony was the development of
two-syllable words for nouns, verbs, adjectives and even for
conjunctions. Today, most words in Chinese consist of two syllables, composed of two single
words, like aiqing "love" from ai 愛 "love, affection" and qing 情 "feeling, sentiment, temperament".
The classical word fang 方 can have the meanings of "direction" (modern: fangxiang 方向),
"location" (difang 地方), "square" (fangxing 方形; fangmi 方米 fangzhang 铀ܐtion), "aspect, side,
party" (fangmian 方面), "mode, manner" (fangshi 方式), "method" (fangfa 方法), "plan, concept"
(fanglüe 方略), "stategy" (fangce 方策), "recipe" (fangji 方劑, fangzi 方子, fangr 方ㄦ, "occultism"
(fangshu 方術, fangji 方技), "honest, upright" (fangzheng 方正), "just now" (fangcai 方才), and so
on; to discern between the different meanings, two-syllable words came up (in brackets).
Today, the People's Republic of China uses the transscription system Pinyin ??µ "Arranged
Sounds", a system more coherent in reflecting consonants than the Wade/Giles system,
introducing letters of the
Roman alphabet that are used for very different sounds in European languages: "h" reflects a
sound more similar to the guttural [x], "j" is [dj], "q" is [tç], "x" is [ç]. The vowel-rare
sounds are "zh" for [d], "ch" for [t], "sh" is like  in English, but a little bit more
guttural, "r" is the French "j" with an inheriting English "r" , "z" for [dz], "c" for [ts], and "s" just for [s].
Lexically very useful, this consonantial system is destroyed by a horrible, that means unlogical
system for the vowels. [y] is sometimes written "u" like in "qu" for [tçy] or "xuan" for [çyn], sometimes written "ü" like "nü" for [ny] or "lüe" for [ly].  is sometimes written "e" like in "lüe" for
[ly], sometimes written "a" like "xuan" for [çyn]. [o] is sometimes written "o" like "bo" for [bo], sometimes written "uo" like "luo" for [lo]. [u] is sometimes written "u" like "lu" for [lu], sometimes
written "o" like "gong" for [gu]. The letter "a" sometimes stands for [a] like "xia" for [çja],
sometimes for  like "xian" for [çjn]. Redundant are the letters "y" like "yi" for [i], while it is used
for [j] in "yao" for [ja], and "w" like "wu" for [u], while it is used for  in "wo" for [o]. It can be argued that the syllables "gong" and "xuan" are pronunciations of the south: [go] and [çyan].
Tones pitches are markes by accents: an upper dash for the rising tone, a raising accent for
the raising tone, an upside down circumflex for the low rising tone, and a falling accent for
the falling pitch (b, bá, b, bà). But the Pinyin system claims to be the correct pronunciation of
the capital Beijing. In that sense, it should be more coherent to the northern pronunciation.
Nevertheless, the Pinyin system should be accepted as an official transscription of Chinese
words that becomes more and more common outside of China.
The table below gives an overview over the pinyin transscription of the Chinese sounds, the
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brackets include the pronunciation according to the international sound transscription, after the
brackets pinyin transscription.
[b] b [d] d [g] g [dj] j [d] zh [dz] z
[p] p [t] t [k] k [tç] q [ts] c [t] ch
[m] m [n] n [x, h] h [ç] x [s] s  ch
[f] f [l] l  r
The vowel-less syllables [d][t],[dz][ts][s] are written zhi, chi, shi, ri, zi, ci, si. The simple
vowels [i][u][y] are written yi, wu, yu. The syllables of two-syllable words are written as one word:
[uŋ] [a] [o] [ə] [ε] [ai] [ei] [aω] [ou] [an] [ən] [aŋ] [əŋ] [ər] ong, a o e ê ai ei ao ou an en ang eng er eng
[-[-[-i] [-ja] [-jε] [-jεn] [-in] [-iaŋ] [-iŋ] [-juŋ] jaω] jou] ian iong i ia ie in iang ing iu iao
[-[-[-[-[-[-[-[-[-n] u] ωa] ωo] ωai] ωei] ωan] ωaŋ] ωəŋ] un ui u ua uo uai uan uang eng [-[-[-[-yεn] y] yε] yn] uan ue un ü
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