Chinese 4 Tones

Chinese 4 Tones


One of the things that makes Mandarin Chinese a difficult language for westerners to learn is that it is a tonal language. Tones are important in Chinese and are indicated in Pinyin with tone marks above the main vowel in a Chinese syllable. The same syllable with different tones indicates different meanings.

There are four tones, five if you count the neutral tone (a syllable without tone marks in Pinyin). There is no definite pitch for these tones; they are relative to each individual speaker. The tones are listed here and depicted graphically below.

  • 1st tone – a continuous high level tone with a pitch value of 5-5
  • 2nd tone – a rising tone that goes from a pitch of 3 to one of 5; the rise in inflection when saying “What?” gives an approximation to the 2nd tone
  • 3rd tone – starts with a falling tone from 2 to 1 but then rises subtly to a pitch level of 4
  • 4th tone – a falling tone from 5 to 1
  • neutral tone – pronounced briefly with tone determined by the preceding stressed syllable i.e. following a first tone, the neutral syllable would have a second tone; following a second tone, it would have a third tone etc.Pic:Cyphernaut970x250

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