9 tones of Cantonese

Discussions on the Cantonese language.
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Helmut
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

9 tones of Cantonese

Post by Helmut » Sat Nov 10, 2001 10:11 pm

I have read that there exists a 9 tone scheme for Cantonese. All what I have seen in text books was a 6 or 7 tone system.
Can anyone explain me how the 9 tone system works or refer me to some good websites explaining it ?
I found this one:
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepage ... onese.html
but its description of the tones is too short (what is a "glottal stop"?) and I couldn't figure out the rules from the examples. May be some of them are wrong ?
Steve

Re: 9 tones of Cantonese

Post by Steve » Mon Nov 12, 2001 12:19 am

: I have read that there exists a 9 tone scheme for Cantonese. All what I have seen in text books was a 6 or 7 tone system.
Tones 1 through 6 are for sounds ending in a vowel, -m, -n, or -ng. Tones 7 through 9 are for "entering tones," i.e. sounds ending in -t, -p, or -k. The -t, -p, -k are not pronounced and are considered glottal stops.
From the perspective of tones, 7 is similar to 1, 8 to 3, and 9 to 6.
Take the sound of "si" /si/:
Tone 1 is similar to the pronunciation of the letter "C", or the word "sea"
Tone 2 is similar to the intonation of the word "see" in the following situation: "This is the solution to the problem. See?"
Tone 4 is similar to the -cy part of the name "Tracy"
Tone 6 - Sing the first sentence of the Christmas song "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" The "ee" in teeth is close to the the 6th tone.
Tone 7 - Read the work "sick" and stop at soon as you're ready to pronounce the 't'. That's a glottal stop - you may feel like choking!
I can't think of anything close to tones 3, 5, 8, or 9 in English, but I hope that you get the idea of tones.
: Can anyone explain me how the 9 tone system works or refer me to some good websites explaining it ?
: I found this one:
: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepage ... onese.html
: but its description of the tones is too short (what is a "glottal stop"?) and I couldn't figure out the rules from the examples. May be some of them are wrong ?
Helmut
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

hockey

Post by Helmut » Tue Nov 13, 2001 9:32 pm

Hi Steve,
thanks a lot for the clarification. So the "glottal stop" is simply one of those three 'do-as-if-you-were-to-pronounce-a-...' endings. I think I got the idea, even if I do not know the christmas song you mentioned (must be for ice-hockey players, right ?).
Let's see whether I really got it. If I understand you right, then the following statements are true. Please correct me, if not:
1. All sounds ending with -t, -p or -k have ONLY tones 7, 8 or 9. This applies no matter whether the sound has a long vowel or a short one. If any such sound is romanised with tone 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, it is because of sloppy spelling by the author.
2. All other sounds NOT ending with -t, -p or -k have NEVER tone 7, 8 or 9. This includes sounds ending with -ng.
3. Tone 1 and tone 7 have the same pitch(high level flat), tone 3 and tone 8 have the same pitch (mid level flat), tone 6 and tone 9 have the same pitch (low level flat).
4. Sounds with tones 1 through 6 in the 9 tone system have the same numbers in Jyutping and in the Sidney Lau system.

Helmut
Steve

Re: hockey

Post by Steve » Wed Nov 14, 2001 3:37 am

: 1. All sounds ending with -t, -p or -k have ONLY tones 7, 8 or 9. This applies no matter whether the sound has a long vowel or a short one. If any such sound is romanised with tone 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, it is because of sloppy spelling by the author.
It is more of a matter of preference. -t, -p, -k sounds should carry tones 7/8/9 or 1/3/6, based on the books that I've read.
However, in conversations, you will hear that the -t, -p, -k pronounced in tones other than 1/3/6. For example, the dictionary pronunication of the word "deer" is luk9, but that is the formal pronunciation and is used in phrases such as "dzi2 luk9 wai4 maa5". But, when used standalone, or in the component word "luk yuk" (deer meat), the tone is closer to 2.
: 2. All other sounds NOT ending with -t, -p or -k have NEVER tone 7, 8 or 9. This includes sounds ending with -ng.
Correct. Only -t, -p, -k are the "entering" tones.
: 3. Tone 1 and tone 7 have the same pitch(high level flat), tone 3 and tone 8 have the same pitch (mid level flat), tone 6 and tone 9 have the same pitch (low level flat).
Correct. Note that tones 8 and 9 are much more frequent than tone 7.
: 4. Sounds with tones 1 through 6 in the 9 tone system have the same numbers in Jyutping and in the Sidney Lau system.
I'm afraid that I'm not familiar with the two systems that you mentioned and I could not say for sure. My assumption is that the tones are pretty consistent across all systems.
:
: Helmut
Helmut
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Re: hockey

Post by Helmut » Fri Nov 16, 2001 4:32 pm

Steve,
thanks a lot for the information. The example of the word for "deer" was particularly interesting.
I found that my dictionaries do not agree what tone to attribute to this word.
One would give it tone number 6 (=9) and would always give tones 1, 3 and 6 to words ending with -p, -t or -k.
Another one does attribute tone number 2 to it, in line with pronounciation by a native speaker that I checked.
I would not ask for the numbering, if I had not seen so many different numbering schemes around.
I just found the following web page with a graphical description, if you would like to have a look. I believe it follows the convention, which you had in mind.
http://www.cc.jyu.fi/~tojan/rlang/tones.gif
Helmut
Steven

Re: tone numbering

Post by Steven » Sun Nov 18, 2001 3:00 am

Helmut,
The graphical description looks interesting, but it seems to be inconsistent with the information contained in the dictionary that I have. The dictionary, Dzong Waa Sun Dzi Din (ISBN 962-231-001-X), indicates the nine tones as follows:
1 - High flat (gou ping)
2 - High rising (gou seung)
3 - High falling (gou hoeue)
4 - Low flat (dai ping)
5 - Low rising (dai seung)
6 - Low falling (dai hoeue)
7 - High entering (gou yap)
8 - Middle entering (dzong yap)
9 - Low entering (dai yap)
So, it appears that tones 1 and 4 are both flat, but 1 is high and 4 is low. In the graphical representation on the web page that you pointed out, both 1, 3, and 6 tones are flat, 2, 5 rising and 4 falling.
As a native speaker, unfortunately (!), I have never learned the tones and so I am not exactly sure what values should be assigned to characters. I just know how the characters are read and I need to consult a dictionary to confidently quote the correct tone.
--Steven
Helmut
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

I got it, finally !!

Post by Helmut » Fri Nov 23, 2001 12:44 pm

Hi Steven,
sorry for the late reaction (are you still there ?). Your response had thrown me back into confusion again.
But suddenly, I understood it all.
Why do all these tone systems seem to contradict each other while talking about the same language ??
Why would Hubert (some weeks ago in this forum) explain to Eugene that the number four ("sei3") is a 'high falling' tone and not 'mid level' as all the text books teach it and we actually hear it when listening to native speakers ??
What explained it all to me is your statement that native speakers have to consult a dictionary to find out which tone they just pronounced, and most of all the following website:
http://www.chinawestexchange.com/Chines ... ersion.htm
This site says the following:
The 9-tone system for Cantonese is a simple extension of the 8-tone system devised for medieval Chinese. The naming of the tones is still the same, but it does not mean that modern day Cantonese is still pronouncing all these tones in the same way. So, the naming is the one that you quoted, but the actual pronounciation is the one given by the diagram. You and the diagram do use the same numbering, so there is a standard numbering after all.
All my confusion was caused by falsely assuming that the naming of the tones in the 9-tone system would reflect acoustic reality of modern Cantonese. So, I guess that the number four was pronounced with a high falling tone one thousand years ago, as it still is in Mandarin today (though they say that Mandarin is in general less close to ancient Chinese than Cantonese is). Today, in Cantonese the number four is spoken flat and mid level, just like number eight.
I guess this will sound unbelievable to a lot of people, but thinking it over it makes so much good sense.
Thanks again for helping to clear things up. I learned a lot here
Helmut
Steve

Re: I got it, finally !! * B R A V O *

Post by Steve » Tue Nov 27, 2001 3:14 am

I was out of town for the weekend :)
Anyway... the problem might have been caused by the fact that many words have new tones that are different from the traditional tones. I was surprised when I looked up the dictionary that there was only one pronunciation of the word deer, and it was in the same tone as the letter six.
The discrepancies in the tones may also be a result of learning by imitation. It was not until I read some of the articles posted here that I started to look into the actual tones. I always knew that there were nine tones, but I could hardly know what exactly they were without consulting a dictionary. It is therefore possible for the tone of a word to shift.
I am no linguist, but if Cantonese can lose the differentiation between /l/ and /n/, tones could also give way to colloquial usage. Technically, the two sounds are different but you can hardly find a situation where using /l/ instead of /n/ will get you into trouble. When I was young, I did not differentiate between the two. Then I started to realize that there should be differences between the two sounds and I had to remember which ones should have /n/. Perhaps there are enough tones that the /l/ and /n/ differentiation does not matter.
I would be interested if someone here could explain whether there have been any shifts in the tones of words in Cantonese.
--Steve
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