Do you juan3 she2?

I’m not talking about curling your tounge like Beijingers do, but enough so that the complementary sounds pairs are clear to yourself?

zi zhi
ce che
se she

To me, most Taiwanese don’t (espically down South). I’m not even sure if they try to disinguish…on several occasions I’ve heard an new word and will ask someone to write it down for me. For example, ce4 shi4 (to test)…ask them to write the bopomofo and you’ll get cheshi alot.

Tell me about it. I was sitting in on an introductory Mandarin class the other day and the teacher was telling the students that the word su4 (like “I’m vegetarian” “Wo chi su”) was pronounced the same as the word for “tree” (shu4). (Unless there is another word for tree that I’m not aware of. That’s always possible.)

My teachers in the PRC would have killed me for saying something like that. But I suppose if everyone pronounces the word like su4, there is not really any reason to expect them to know the “correct” bopomofo.

I just feel sorry for those poor foreigners when they try to look up the word su4 for tree.

I learned my Chinese 100% by ear, by myself, just listening to people, and talking with friends. The Taiwanese “accent” issue used to drive me friggin nuts! People would correct me, trying to get me to say a word “byao-tswen”, and as soon as they weren’t conscious of what they were saying they, themselves, would revert to hardcore “taiwan gwo-yu”.

Since I didn’t have a teacher, or a system to make sense of this contradiction, this was a major problem for me.

Some friends and I coined the phrase “Wa ga li gong” as a catch-all to refer to real capital “T” Taiwanese types. [“Wa ga li gong” is Taiwanese for “Wo ge ni jiang”] Even until the day I left Taiwan, I wouldn’t bet on how reliably I could differentiate “4th” floor and “10th” floor, for example, when spoken by a real wa-ga-li-gong on the phone. Wa-ga-li-gongs are definitely the kind of people you are thinking about when you say “down south”.

When you get to know people better in Taiwan, when you come to understand “wai-shen ren”, “ben-shen-ren”, and the people in-between, you’ll find that the pronunciation confusion is not exclusive to we “lao-wai”. Among themselves, native speakers in Taiwan laugh about this all the time.

There is a famous Mandarin tounge twister:

si4 shi4 si4
shi2 shi4 shi2
shi2 si4 shi4 shi2 si4
si4 shi2 shi4 si4 shi2
si4 shi2 si4 zhi1 shi2 shi1 zi3 shi4 si3 de.

Don’t seek out a wa-ga-li-gong language coach to learn this one, if you value you sanity, and your faith in your accuity.

I think wo gen ni jiang is actually Mandarin for Goa gah li kong, not the other way around. There are many Taiwaneseisms like this that have crept into the lexicon of Mandarin speakers here.

My observation has been that use of the retroflex r is mostly a function of class and education in Taiwan at least for people under 50. Working class people tend not to distinguish the pairs while most educated people do.

While we’re on this topic, does anybody else think that Taiwanese Mandarin speakers pronounce the third tone in Mandarin just like the 5th tone in Taiwanese? In other words, the tone does not rise higher at the end, but simply stops at the same level where it began. Or maybe I’m just hearing things?

As far as the retroflex goes, the main reason you don’t hear it in Taiwanese mandarin is that it doesn’t exist in Taiwanese, so I guess it’s just unnatural to any speaker of Minnan/Fukien/Taiwanese.

Item 1: the 3rd tone.

The 3rd tone only gets its full value (dipping and then rising) at the end of a phrase or sentence. You probably know that if a 3rd tone is immediately followed by another 3rd, it turns into a 2nd tone, and 333 becomes 223. The other rule, which explains what Feiren is hearing, is that if a 3rd tone is followed by any other tone, it only falls. This is called a “low falling tone,” but I find it to be indistinguishable from a low level tone.

Item 2: Retroflexive consonants.

Many people think that mainland people can pronounce retroflexive consonants (sh, ch, and zh) and Taiwanese people can’t. In fact this is not a mainland/Taiwan difference, but a north/south Chinese difference. Most people from southern China, such as Shanghai and Sichuan, pronounce these sounds as s, c and z, just like Taiwanese people do. Many other so-called Taiwanese traits are general southern traits, too. For example, saying “jiang” instead of “shuo” for “speak,” “man” instead of “ting” for “pretty” as in “pretty good,” and “yi diandian” instead of “yi dianr” for “a little.” Some friends of mine from Hunan Province laughed at me for saying “yi dianr” - they would always say “yi diandian.”

Way back in 1980(?) I watched the trial of the Gang of Four on Chinese television. The judge asked one of the Gang: “Wo gangcai shuo de shi bu shi shishi?” meaning “Is what I just said the truth?” It came out as “Wo gangcai suo de si bu si sisi.” The accused, who I think was from Shanghai, then admitted: “Si, si sisi” (Yes, it is the truth.)

The Chinese r is also a retroflexive consonant. Many Taiwanese people seem to deal with it by pronouncing it like an English z.

Juba wrote:

quote[quote] The 3rd tone only gets its full value (dipping and then rising) at the end of a phrase or sentence.[/quote]

Yes, but I don’t think I hear the full rise even here.

Long time ago (maybe a year) when there was good debate on the now defunct forum section of there was a debate started by the many-aliased guy who was later known as Big Dork on oriented. I argued that most Taiwanese simply use z/zh, c/ch, s/sh interchangeably. His argument was that people overcompensate to try and seem educated. So especially when talking to other foreigners etc, they’ll say ‘ni hen chungming’ etc. Maybe there was a bit of truth to that, but I still seem to here a ‘zhao an’ for every ‘senme sihou’.


Originally posted by Feiren: ...I don't think I hear the full rise even here.

The third tone doesn’t rise as far as the second tone does. It only goes about half way up.

Yes, but isn’t the final pitch of the third tone higher than its initial pitch? Li and Thompson give the pitch numbers for the third tone as 214 where 1 is the lowest pitch and 5 the highest. I’m saying that I hear Taiwanese speakers pronouncing the full third tone as something more like 212.

How does Southern China/Taiwan’s locale language effect their mandarin in this way?

Southern Chinese languages do not have “juan she” sounds; thus, local speakers often use the closest approximate when speaking Mandarin (“sh” become “s”, and so on).

There is also interchangeable use of en and eng sounds. So pengyou becomes penyou. And nansheng becomes nanshen. Drives me wonkers.

o yao4 cu1 si2zin cao3huan4!

o ye yao cu!

Why? Who cares? Native speakers can understand it.

I don’t have any kind of linguistic snobbery about it, the same way I don’t mind that English people misspell ‘color’, but when it comes to juan3she2, there is a loss of information if the distinction isn’t preserved, so I don’t thing it’s a good thing, especially in a language which is already much too homophonous.

Taiwanese have no trouble distinguishing between 4th floor and 10th floor usually. Do foreigners really have trouble with this?

I prefer the TAiwanese mandarin (of course I would as I am half Taiwanese) and I dont like the juanshe at all. There is no juanshe in Taiwanese or Taiwanese mandarin.

Thats one reason I have trouble when learning spanish as well as i cant roll the “r” .

I am ethnically Taiwanese,English,French,German and I dont think any of those languages have rolled “r” sounds?

Bad example, as they also differ in tone.

Many Taiwanese still distinguish between se4 and she4, and their Chinese is better for it, IMO.

[quote]Thats one reason I have trouble when learning Spanish as well as i cant roll the “r” .

I am ethnically Taiwanese,English,French,German and I don’t think any of those languages have rolled “r” sounds?[/quote]

I don’t think that has anything to do with juan3she2, which is not a trilling action.

Well for sure if you juanshe you are speaking like a mainlander in Taiwan.

I met up with this american chinese girl and she went to beijing for a few years to study chinese and she definitely speaks “like a mainlander” and would be so considered in Taiwan.

Taiwanese mandarin speakers simply do NOT juanshe. And I dont see why they should have to. It doesnt add color or depth to mandarin in my humble opinion.