March 12, 2008

Dropped sounds in Mandarin

Beijingers sometimes drop the sh, zh and x in the middle of words/phrases. --source
This quote from the Beijing Sounds blog got me thinking, what sounds are dropped by Mandarin speakers in Taiwan? When I say it got me thinking, I don't mean it literally, I mean it rhetorically. In fact, I have thought about it before, and my thinking didn't get me far. There are unnecessary syllables that get dropped, such as 麼, which is sometimes dropped from 怎麼樣. And very commonly there is a "g" sound at the end of a syllable that is not pronounced, but that is because the speaker is not aware of the correct pronunciation, or perhaps does not make a distinction.

But in all the Mandarin Chinese I have heard over the years, I can only think of one word where the sounds actually undergo a significant change, something like a contraction in English. That word is 大家 da4jia1 (everybody). The 'j' sound gets partially dropped from this word. The resulting sound is somewhere between da4jia1 and da4ya.

Maybe I just don't notice other words like this because I have an iron ear, but I don't think so. I think this is one of the reason that Mandarin is not such a bad language for foreign learners. When spoken quickly, it does not become slurred and transformed like most other languages.

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