Tones

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
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FutureSpy
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Tones

Post by FutureSpy » Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:42 pm

I've always thought POJ diacricts were arbitrary 'cos they simply wouldn't match those voice modulation graphs. But then, yesterday, listening to some random words in their lexical tones in Taipei accent, I realized that I do listen them as the diacritics indicate, despite the way they modulate their voice. Maybe it's just me and my lack of tone training... So I'd like to hear from more experienced people. :mrgreen: Anyway, for Tainan I didn't have the same luck and they do sound a little bit differently.

Oh, another question: "Spoken Hokkien" gives "che7-ti7". No translation was provided for that word specifically, but the sentence is "Che7-ti7 hia hit-e5 tioh8 si7 lau7-su in7 bo2" (The one sitting over there is the teacher's wife). Isn't that che7 supposed to be che? Although Googling for "che7 ti7" does returns results. I thought the author applied sandhi by mistake, but I emailed her, and she told me it is indeed che7-ti7. Another word I'm having problems with is in7. It's listed as in7 (they), but all my other sources give in1. According to the author, that's its lexical tone. So I wonder if that's specific to Tainan...
amhoanna
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Re: Tones

Post by amhoanna » Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:32 am

The POJ diacritics are arbitrary, AFAIK. (Short answer.) The beginning of a long answer would be that they had to do with the traditional names of the tone classes: 阴去, 阳上, etc. Hakka and Teochew POJ use the same marks for the same tone classes.

I'm surprised that U hear such a difference btw the Taipak and Tailam accents. I may just not hear it b/c I don't expect there to be much of a difference.
Isn't that che7 supposed to be che?
Not sure what U're asking here. 坐 is chē. "Che" would be THIS.

THEY "in" is definitely T1. Your source might be trying to reinterpret the tone classes. The thing is, pronouns usually "sandhi" when they occur non-sentence-finally. (And they often shed tone sentence-finally too.) "In" will sandhi to a mid-level tone in a great majority of contexts. That's not b/c the lexical tone is T7, but b/c the word is always sandhi-ing.
FutureSpy
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Re: Tones

Post by FutureSpy » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:14 pm

It's not that I see such a difference between Tâi-pâk and Tâi-lâm. What I did was listneing to some random vocabulary section of "CDエクスプレス台湾語" and "Spoken Hokkien" to check how I perceive tones. I wrote it down as I listened to the words, and I got most of "Spoken Hokkien" completely wrong. Funny thing is that when I hear to "CDエクスプレス台湾語" recordings, I do see those POJ diacritics in my mind. Guess what, I really need to practice more tones... :oops:
Not sure what U're asking here. 坐 is chē. "Che" would be THIS.
Oh, you're right. Now everything makes sense. Sorry for my lapse :(
FutureSpy
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Re: Tones

Post by FutureSpy » Thu Apr 19, 2012 1:43 am

I still have some questions to ask here, but I've been busy lately. I'll try to post them tomorrow. Well, I have some ideas bugging me, so I'd like to hear your opinions: if I were properly trained in Mandarin tones, how much would I benefit from it at learning Taiwanese Hokkien? I can get Taiwanese people to correct my pronunciation, but they can't really help me to produce correct tones. So considering it's pretty easy to find good Mandarin teachers, do you think it would be beneficial if I got some practice for Mandarin tones? I know Hokkien has more tones and... I always thought Hokkien didn't really have a falling rising tone like tone 3 from Mandarin, but now looking at Maryknoll I'm a little bit confused. :S
Yeleixingfeng
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Re: Tones

Post by Yeleixingfeng » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:18 am

No offence guys - just the truth.

I learn Hokkien using the Mandarin tonal logic, and perhaps the majority of the Penang Hokkien community as well. But, that is strictly because Penang Hokkien does not distinguish between the 3rd and 7th tone. So, in your case, I might suggest that it definitely will be helpful, but you will still not see the difference between the two tones - like most of the Penang Hokkiens.

In fact, there is a very easy way of memorising the tone sandhis in Hokkien.
Mid-level is both the first tone. Rising is 2nd in Mandarin, but 5th in Hokkien. Low-level is 3rd in Mandarin, 3rd+7th in Hokkien (to me). 去聲 (not sure the corresponding English name, sorry) is 4th in Mandarin, 2nd in Hokkien.

Now the tone sandhi is simple. Consider 1st and 2nd as a group, 3rd and 4th as another. If a character falls into the former, the sandhi-ed tone would automatically be 3rd. If it falls into the latter, it would be 1st. Exceptions apply, but mostly it is a safe rule - for Penang Hokkien, that is.

But honestly, if you really want to catch the subtle difference between tones, learn Cantonese. They have a complete and elaborate tonal system - Malaysian speakers retain them perfectly. And, with Cantonese the 陰陽 designation for each tones becomes clearer. I have always thought if any Sinitic language is suitable to be 官話 (Official Language of China or Taiwan), Cantonese would be a winning candidate.

Sorry guys, Hokkien has just too much dispute of 用字. >.<
SimL
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Re: Tones

Post by SimL » Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:49 am

Hi Yeleixingfeng,

Nice to see you back here!

Yes, your description is EXACTLY the one I worked out when I was young too, when first exposed to Mandarin :P.

There are a couple of additional subtle comments which can be important though (stuff I only found out in the last few years).

I believe (but I base this only on my own listening, not on accurate measurements or anything I read in linguistic articles):

1. The (Penang) Hokkien tone1 and the Mandarin tone1 are both level tones, but the Hokkien tone is lower than the Mandarin one (maybe 44 or 33, in contrast to Mandarin 55).

2. The (Penang) Hokkien3/7 tone and Mandarin tone3 are both low (or non-high, in any case), slightly falling, but the Hokkien tone3/7 never rises again, the way the Mandarin one does when at the end of the phrase.

3. The (Penang) Hokkien tone2 is considered ("psychologically") to correspond to the Mandarin tone4 - Penang Hokkien speakers consider both of them to be falling tones, but... in reality, the Mandarin tone4 is a very sharply falling tone (maybe 51), whereas the Penang Hokkien tone doesn't fall very much at all (maybe 53 or maybe even only 54 or 5-4.5). It is the fact that it starts higher than Hokkien tone1 which Penang Hokkien speaker use to distinguish it from Penang Hokkien tone1, rather than the actual falling itself.

This last fact was first brought to my attention by Ah-bin (when he was trying to improve his Penang Hokkien), and I now "believe it to be true", even though I still continue to *perceive* it as a falling tone! One of the ways I "prove" this to myself is to think of the contrast between how non-Penang Hokkien speakers say "i1 ho2" (= "he's good"), and how Penang Hokkien speakers say it. The former group have a much more dramatically falling Hokkien tone2, it's one of the things which make the two variants sound different. My current opinion (subject to change if the tones of the two are ever measured scientifically) is that the non-Penang Hokkien tone2 (rather than the Penang Hokkien tone2) is much closer to the Mandarin tone4 (because both fall quite sharply).

To sum up points 1 and 3 from a slightly different perspective: Mandarin speakers distinguish Mandarin tone1 and Mandarin tone4 from one another by the fact that the former remains level while the latter falls sharply (they both begin quite high), whereas Penang Hokkien speakers distinguish Hokkien tone1 and Hokkien tone2 from one another by the fact that the former starts lower than the latter (neither - specifically the latter - falls significantly).

The reason all this is worth pointing out is that when speakers of one language learn another language (especially as adults), the most normal thing is to map the sounds (and hence also tones) of the language they are learning to the one which they already know (i.e. their native language). This is a very well-established fact about the (non-native) acquisition of second languages. So, for all intents and purposes, the mapping that Yeleixingfeng (and I) make has the result that in our Mandarin tones are slightly different from how they would be spoken by a PRC Mandarin speaker (not that there is a standard completely uniform pronunciation in the PRC anyway, but just glossing over details to get the idea across).

It's taken me many years and a lot of thinking and listening to come to these conclusions, and I re-emphasize that the only way to *really* know is to measure them: get a native Penang Hokkien speaker, get a native PRC N. Mandarin speaker; get them to say the 4 tones (in a whole lot of situations and samples); record this, get the spectograms, and look at the resulting tone contours. That's the only way to *really* know, as all other methods go through our perception and linguistic processing systems, which can influence what we think we hear incredibly.

PS. I'd like to give another illustration of point 2 above (and also to support the statement that learners attempt to map the language they are learning to the system used in their native language). When I was young in Penang, nobody had the slight rise in Mandarin tone3, when the syllable was at the end of a phrase; i.e. they used the Hokkien tone3/7 in all situations where they needed the Mandarin tone3, when speaking Mandarin (I don't know if that has changed now, with more exposure to PRC Mandarin in TV, radio, films and YouTube). I found this "standard Mandarin tone3" rise-at-the-end very odd when I first started learning Mandarin again from PRC speakers, as an adult. Not only odd, but confusing, because I was used to Mandarin tone3 as low non-rising, and Mandarin tone2 as rising. THIS was what I used to distinguish Mandarin tone3 from Mandarin tone2 - the presence or absence of rising. In PRC Mandarin, tone3 at the end of the phrase rises slightly and that made it very difficult for me to distinguish from tone2.
Yeleixingfeng
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Re: Tones

Post by Yeleixingfeng » Fri Apr 27, 2012 12:58 pm

Haha, you see in Penang the tone1 in Mandarin is exactly tone1 in Hokkien, that's why the system works SEAMLESSLY for me - 天, tian and thiN is on the same level. This is the case as well for tone4(M) and tone2(H). Yet besides level, tone1(M) and tone4(M) differs such that tone2 is not exactly sharp-falling, but rather, a short accented tone. 編 is at a slow, even pace, while 騙 is 5. I don't really know how to explain - it's not a glottal stop, just, an accent.
SimL
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Re: Tones

Post by SimL » Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:52 pm

>> Haha, you see in Penang the tone1 in Mandarin is exactly tone1 in Hokkien

Yes, this is indeed what I wanted to point out. It's not so much that Mandarin tone1 IS exactly Hokkien tone1, but rather that the vast majority of originally Hokkien speakers have interpreted Mandarin tone1 as equivalent to Hokkien tone1 and hence use this in their form of Mandarin. The result is of course then that FOR US, Mandarin tone1 IS exactly Hokkien tone1.

My posting was hence just a warning that while two things may sound exactly the same to both you and me in Mandarin and Hokkien, this could be an illusion caused by the form of Mandarin we are familiar with.

I realised when writing my original response that the scenario I wrote is slightly different from the real one, because we don't have a situation where native Hokkien speakers are learning Mandarin as a foreign language each generation. Instead, they (many of them) are learning Mandarin as a native language, but then as a native language heavily influenced by Hokkien, because at some stage (3-4 generations ago), Penang Hokkien speakers DID learn Mandarin as a non-native language. This is pretty similar to the situation in India, where some Indians may learn English as a native language, but then from other Indians of a previous generation (who might also have learnt it as a native language), but that they are still the heirs of a tradition / history of speakers who once DID learn English as a foreign language. Which is why Indian English has points where it differs from "standard" English (whatever that is, as it doesn't exist anyway).
FutureSpy
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Re: Tones

Post by FutureSpy » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:58 am

But honestly, if you really want to catch the subtle difference between tones, learn Cantonese. They have a complete and elaborate tonal system - Malaysian speakers retain them perfectly. And, with Cantonese the 陰陽 designation for each tones becomes clearer. I have always thought if any Sinitic language is suitable to be 官話 (Official Language of China or Taiwan), Cantonese would be a winning candidate.
Hi Yeleixingfeng. Thanks for your advices. Not sure if I'll be able to find any Cantonese who can actually teach Cantonese tones, but still worth trying :)

Reading your discussions kinda reminded me of one of the Taiwanese I know trying to fit Taiwanese tones into Mandarin tones. They got very confused, but they showed me some equivalences (too bad I forgot to write it down :|). My question is, does Hokkien really have a tone like Mandarin tone 4? Most of my references I have for Taiwanese (except Maryknoll) show pitch graphs and none of the tones look like high-falling...
amhoanna
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Re: Tones

Post by amhoanna » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:20 am

does Hokkien really have a tone like Mandarin tone 4?
TWese/Amoy does, and Phils/Coanciu does. TWese citation T2 and running T3 are nothing if not high-falling... In Coanciu (city) and Phils Hokkien it's citation T3 and citation T7.

Are there differences? Sure. Mandarin T4 is in a real hurry to "get down there" ASAP, while the TWese high-falling tones seem to take their time looping down through the octave. And it may be that for some spkrs citation T2 only falls half way, to a middle pitch.

But could U speak trouble-free Mandarin using a Hoklo high-falling tone, or trouble-free Hoklo using a Mandarin high-falling tone? I'd say yes, although I've never heard anyone try the latter, so, don't know.
amhoanna
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Re: Tones

Post by amhoanna » Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:25 am

On a different note... It strikes me that maybe Penang citation T2 (and running T3?) is so high, and barely falling if at all, b/c of Cantonese influence? This ties into what Sim was saying about people learning a language from people of another generation who themselves "had an accent" and/or influence from another tongue. If seems that, at some point, Penang more than anywhere else saw a great number of Cantophones shift to Hoklo en masse.
AndrewAndrew
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Re: Tones

Post by AndrewAndrew » Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:33 pm

amhoanna wrote:On a different note... It strikes me that maybe Penang citation T2 (and running T3?) is so high, and barely falling if at all, b/c of Cantonese influence? This ties into what Sim was saying about people learning a language from people of another generation who themselves "had an accent" and/or influence from another tongue. If seems that, at some point, Penang more than anywhere else saw a great number of Cantophones shift to Hoklo en masse.
There are two ways of pronouncing Penang citation T2 - one is high falling, 54, another is high rising, 45. Therefore, it is possible to say m7-sai2 so that it sounds Cantonese. According to one study, most people use and stick to one or the other. The main thing is that you touch the 5, because no other tone in Penang does.

Penang running T3 is more like citation T1 - 44.
amhoanna
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Re: Tones

Post by amhoanna » Wed May 02, 2012 3:44 pm

Thanks, Andrew!
SimL
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Re: Tones

Post by SimL » Wed May 02, 2012 4:35 pm

AndrewAndrew wrote:There are two ways of pronouncing Penang citation T2 - one is high falling, 54, another is high rising, 45. Therefore, it is possible to say m7-sai2 so that it sounds Cantonese.
and
amhoanna wrote:On a different note... It strikes me that maybe Penang citation T2 (and running T3?) is so high, and barely falling if at all, b/c of Cantonese influence? This ties into what Sim was saying about people learning a language from people of another generation who themselves "had an accent" and/or influence from another tongue. If seems that, at some point, Penang more than anywhere else saw a great number of Cantophones shift to Hoklo en masse.
This ties in with what one of my relatives said during a family history interview. I reported it in another thread of this Forum, but will re-quote it here for convenience.
SimL wrote:... He explained that there was a minority of Cantonese speakers in Penang in his youth. The majority Hokkien speakers (or, at any rate, the people of his own background) treated them with contempt (part of it being that they didn't speak Hokkien). The derogatory term they used for them was "makau tu" (= "pig"). He explained that it was interesting that this term of abuse was used for *all* Cantonese speakers. People were aware that not all of them came from Macau, but this term was used to cover them all, irrespective. The use of that term - he continued to explain - brought into focus the fact that he himself was a *Hokkien* speaker, hence producing a stronger consciousness of a Hokkien identity.
When there are only a very few members of an ethnic group within a larger community, there is (usually) little negative feeling. For example, the presence of only a few Chinese prior to the Gold Rush days in Australia, or the presence of only few Middle Eastern people in Europe prior to the 1970's meant that nobody thought much about them at all. It was only when they started forming a visible minority (still perhaps insignifant in absolute numbers, but enough to be a distinctly identifiable group), that the negative feelings start to develop. From the description of this term of abuse, I surmise that there must have been a major influx of Cantonese speakers coming to Penang at some time in the early 20th Century. Otherwise, there would have been no need to have a term of abuse for them. The fact that Penang is so overwhelmingly Hokkien speaking nowadays tells us that this minority then switched over to Hokkien.

So, putting all the little inputs from Andrew, amhoanna and me together, we might have an explanation for the "Cantonese form" of "m-sai". (I myself use the "falling" version.)
Yeleixingfeng
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Re: Tones

Post by Yeleixingfeng » Tue May 08, 2012 9:11 am

Recently however, Cantonese-speaking people are considered unique, but they are predominantly from KL or Ipoh. And yes, the original Penangites, ancestrally Cantonese/Hakka/Hainanese, speak fluent Hokkien despite their respective dialect. Usually, the parents still know the dialect - which quite reflects SimL's observations.
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