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The magic "Tones" in Mandarin Language

posted 1 Apr 2016, 07:43 by Yolanda Luo   [ updated 11 Jun 2016, 11:45 ]

Tones play an important role in Mandarin. A pinyin with different tones have distinct meanings. Four main tones can be found in Mandarin. They are first, second, third and fourth tone and always demonstrated with tone marks as below:

Representation of the four Mandarin Chinese language tones

Here below you can listen to how tones make the magic happen. We are going to explain the pronunciations and meanings of "ma" with different tones.

  • mā: mother

The first tone is flat and high.

  • má: numb

The second tone is a rising tone. When pronounce it, we normally relate it with a question in English.

  • mǎ: horse

The third tone goes down first, and then rises.

  • mà: curse

The fourth tone drops sharply.

During your Mandarin learning process, you will find some pinyin without a tone mark on the top of a final. We call it neutral tone, and you need to pronounce it very lightly.

  • ma: question word.

Don’t worry if you cannot make it right in the beginning. Learning pinyin needs practice and the context can help to reduce the confusion.

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