Standard Chinese Phonology - Syllable Reduction

Syllable Reduction

When a syllable is unstressed, it not only loses its tone, but tenuis occlusives such as b d g z j become voiced (in pinyin, bb dd gg zz jj) and the vowel is reduced. When the consonant of the unstressed syllable in a nasal or a fricative, the vowel (or entire rime) may be dropped altogether. For example,

Full form Reduced form
zuǐba 'mouth' zuǐbbə
ěrduo 'ear' ěrddo
xǐhuan 'to like' xǐhuə
chūqu 'to go out' chūqə
bízi 'nose' bízz
dōngxi 'thing' dōngx
dòufu 'tofu' dòuf
wǒmen 'us' wǒm
shénme 'what' shém

The last example involved assimilation as well, which is seen even in unreduced syllables in quick speech (for example, in guǎmbō for guǎngbō 'broadcast'). The most salient example of assimilation is the exclamatory particle ā, which even has different characters for its assimilated forms:

Preceding sound Assimilated form
-ng, -ɨ ā 啊
-a, -o, -e, -i, -ü yā 呀 (from ŋā)
-u wā 哇
-le lā 啦
-n nā 哪

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