Mandarin Chinese Pinyin System

Introduction

The Background

With no built-in guide to the pronunciation of Chinese characters, various systems of romanization – representing the sounds of Chinese using the Roman alphabet – have been developed.


The Chinese developed Hanyu Pinyin in the late 1950s; it was officially adopted in Mainland China in 1979; and it was accepted as an international standard for Romanizing Chinese (ISO-7098: 1991). It has become the most widely accepted standard for the Romanization of Mandarin.


Although the Pinyin system uses the Roman alphabet, it has reassigned a few letters to sounds that are quite different from what an English speaker would expect. Therefore, it is extremely important to distinguish those sounds from their English pronunciation and produce accurate Mandarin Chinese sounds.


Chinese words are written in Pinyin without apostrophes, and multi-syllabic words (most words in Chinese) are written as a single word, i.e. without spaces.


Overall, Pinyin has been successfully adopted as a system for representing Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and as a system for Romanizing Chinese names. Pinyin is also widely used for entering characters into a computer simply by typing in the pinyin and then selecting the character from a list provided.


Visit Pinyin Foundation: Simple Finals and Initials for more information

Structure of Chinese Syllables

An initial, a final and a tone form a syllable. Initials consist of consonants or semi-vowels; finals consist of vowels or vowels plus one of the two nasal sounds [n] or [ng]. The tone is superimposed over the entire syllable.
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Look all those 3 components in a character

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Finals

There are 35 finals in Mandarin Chinese in three kinds. There are simple finals, which are also known as simple vowels; compound finals or compound vowels, and finals with a nasal ending , also known as vowels with a nasal ending.


Refer to the following chart.

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Initials

In Mandarin Chinese, there are 21 initials categorized in 6 groups according to the positions of our lips, teeth and tongues when the sound is pronounced.


Refer to the following chart:

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Tones

In Mandarin, words that have the same pronunciation can have different meanings depending on how the word is said. The tone of a word describes how the pitch changes as the word is said. There are four tones and a neutral in Mandarin. The tones are represented in Pinyin by marks above the words and are read from left to right. The absence of a tone also has meaning.


See the following chart for an example.

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Here is a video to demonstrate the pronunciations of the sounds. It is about 6 minutes long. You don't have to watch the entire video, but do come back to it as you go along.
Chinese Pinyin-Lesson 2(Mandarin)

Credits to the following sites

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