Forum Rocket Chinese Chinese Grammar Pronunciation of certain consonants

Pronunciation of certain consonants


Hello! When comparing the Pinyon version of certain words to the audio lesson pronunciation, especially ones with two consonants together in the middle (like "shénme") , I have a difficult time hearing the n in the middle of the word. My question is if the n is similar to certain english words that have silent letters (e.g. the ugh in thorough) or do my novice ears still have a ways to go in hearing all the subtle sounds within Chinese? Thanks. :)


Whether a letter is silent depends on the context. Also, a lot of consonants do not sound like their English counterparts. In the case of shénme, I think it is more the case of the 'n' sound being de-emphasized. Also, there are a lot of two letter combinations. You'll pick it up over time but be sure to listen carefully. Often times the pinyin can overly influence your pronunciation in a wrong direction.


I'm a native Chinese speaker and I don't pronounce the n (I just say sheme).


大家好! Although the 'n' in 什么 is not stressed, it still influences the way in which we say the word. If the 'n' was not it the word and it was written "shéme" then it would sound quite different. It is also important to remember that much in the same way that words do not always have a direct translation, sounds also cannot be 'translated'. By this I mean, we are using the latin alphabet to teach you the sounds of Chinese and it cannot be expected that a letter from the latin alphabet be pronounced the same way in both languages. Going back to our example, the 'n' in "shénme" does not carry the same weight as it would in an English word such as "nail" but is rather lightly pronounced before the following syllable. I know this may sound a bit complicated but I really hope this helps! Keep up the good work! - Lin Ping




That definitely makes sense and helps a ton. Thank you to everyone for your great responses!


The phenomenon to which you're referring is called "assimilation", and is pretty common among the word's languages. Example 1: i can make a handbag Humans are very efficient (read: lazy). Unconsciously, we preemptively move our lips and tongue into a position which allows smooth transition between speech sounds. In my example 1, the 'n' sounds in both 'can' and 'haNdBag' can approach an 'm' sound in rapid connected speech in preparation for the 'handbag' n<->b (with the 'd' sound in handbag basically being dropped altogether in such cases) and 'caN Make' n<->m sound transitions; notice both the trailing sounds 'm' and 'b' are produced by touching both lips together. It all becomes a lot more obvious once you start watching some Chinese TV shows or movies where the 是's can start sounding like 日's, and 咱们俩 sounds like zam lia. Wiki article if you'd like if you'd be interested in reading some more on the topic of assimilation:


Thank you for the insight and the wiki link. Knowing that letters get dropped in Chinese similar to how they do in English makes proper conversational pronunciation far less daunting.

Ask a question or a post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

If you are already a member login here .
If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket Chinese trial here .