Tongue position for pinyin ‘d’ sound?

Hello there,

I’m beginning Chinese Mandarin and trying to get a firm foundation in terms of pronunciation by working on mouth positions etc.

I’ve encountered a bit of ambiguity in that the d sound in pinyin is listed as alveolar on Wikipedia and yet on YouTube videos I have seen the tongue appears to be in a post alveolar position.

I would like to know roughly where on the alveolar ridge one should place one’s tongue when making this sound i.e. just behind the teeth; in the middle of the alveolar ridge; or post alveolar.

Thank you in advance for your help,

The D sounds like 'D’


The tip of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth between the base of the teeth and the alveolar ridge, much like English D (but unvoiced) or English T (but unaspirated).


Actually it’s a bit different. But if you say D people could still understand you.

Well I’m no linguist but I the it’s an alveolar sound since my tongue touches my teeth when I say ㄉ (the pin yin d).

1 Like

Agree with @MadamBroccoli and @Chris

We don’t have an equivalent in English. Another way to look at it is that you start of where you would when pronouncing Japanese ‘d’, but It’s unaspirated when you say it.

So at the start, the tip of the tongue touches the back of your front teeth. You can make a similar sound with your tongue further back, but don’t pull it way back.

When I say ‘dance’, the tip of my tongue is way back in the middle of the roof of my mouth: ‘duh-nce’ … I wouldn’t do the same with ‘duo’ 多 or ‘da’ 大, it would sound a bit unusual (at least in Taiwan) … I think maybe mainlanders from the Northern part of China does something like this.

1 Like


My tongue seems to be in the same place for English or Mandarin D, @Chris explains it.


I dunno. Taiwanese and Chinese alike tell me I have a Taiwanese accent.

I gotta be doing something right.

1 Like

I think it’s a bit aspirated. Kind of like in “you got dat right”:

And a little less so as in like “it’s all about dat bass”:

I think most Taiwanese says it with the tongue tip against where the base of the teeth and the alveolar ridge meet.

Although, some varieties of Mandarin spoken in China, and those in Taiwan who either retained or mimic that accent would have the tongue tip further back to halfway between the middle of the roof of the mouth and the base of the teeth.

1 Like

Hmmm … I guess it might depend on your native (English) accent. I tend to start my ‘ds’ further back when speaking English. And waaay forward when speaking Chinese. Sometimes, in very casual conversations, my tongue barely taps my teeth at all - like: “這個東西啊,多少錢?”

Can I ask where you’re from?

Australia. But I don’t have a broad, stereotypical flat Australian accent. If I ever did, I would’ve lost it since leaving school.

When I talk, I’m most often mistaken for a Brit. But actual Brits would easily pick up that I’m not one of them. Since, like, I still say ‘lollies’ instead of ‘sweets’, ‘bottle-o’ instead of ‘lick-her shop’ etc.

And I learn Chinese from exclusively Taiwanese teachers, books, videos, etc.

1 Like

You can get away with it with a slightest englsih “d”, but most people pronounce them differently. Occasionally people ask me if I’m a foreigner, although I’m a very local local person. When I have that English “d” in my accent, some could tell.

Another price of evidence is, when you teach people English, you’d notice that Taiwanese have a hard time pronouncing voices consonants, including “d”. So you want take that “voiced” part out of your Mandarin. It’s called reverse engineering.

I tried it, it seems like the tongue position doesn’t really affect the English accent, but it changes the Mandarin accent drastically. If you do that you’ll sound a bit 大舌頭.

I think maybe it’s because there’s no flat tongue/rolled tongue “pairs” in English. Like ㄓㄔㄕ/ㄗㄘㄙ so perhaps we’re more sensitive to the tongue position.

Anyways I place my tongue at the same place I do the English D, and they both touch my teeth. I think it’s the way to pronounce Taiwanese Mandarin. Chinese Mandarin might be a different story.

I think so, for me the Chinese D sound is the same as in English. But I can see how it might not be the same for some other English accents.

Does that mean that you don’t do a voiced sound when you say “d” in English? Wouldn’t that make it difficult for people to tell if you’re saying d or t in English? I’ve spoken to people from Canada UK(London Edinburgh Northern Ireland) Australia South Africa USA (northern and southern states, California, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Florida, I think Miami too). I can’t be too specific about Canada and northern southern USA because I don’t recall where those people are from but could only remember there from the north or the south…
And I think most people from the area I’ve met would agree that the mandarin d would be different from the English d. Since they all do the voiced sound with the English d. And it’s hard to tell the mandarin d from the English t.

I understand that sometimes the t would sound like a weak d, but generally they are different. Especially when it’s at the beginning of a word. Like “dad” and “tad”. They sound very different to me.

This post could be a bit hard to read cuz I’m low on blood sugar now and honestly I’m not even sure what I was typing…

I tried my best :neutral_face:

Haha yeah, I’ve been told that I’ve also picked up a bad slurring habit (口齒不清) that Taiwanese speakers tend to have …

That’s good!


Well my Chinese accent is pretty bad so I shouldn’t even comment, but I never had a d-t problem in Chinese. The ones I mixed up the most are n-l. I also miss zh-z, en-eng and several more and only find out when I try to type them. By d-t was not one I hear wrong.