Erhua 儿 - does it actually mean something?

January 12, 2012, 02:44 PM posted in I Have a Question

Dear chinesepod,

I am puzzled by using  儿 ér in some words (and not using it in some other words). Except few 

You, Shanghai-based chinesepod guys, almost exclusively use 哪里 / nǎlǐ for "where" in your lessons, whereas my teacher never says anything but 哪儿 / nǎr (she studied in Beijing). The textbook I use also always mentions 哪儿 / nǎr.

Now, interestingly, I found in wikipedia article "Erhua" that the -儿 / -ér is used as diminutive.

So, when I see something like 我要买这个包儿 /wǒ yào mǎi zhèi ge bāor/, does it mean they want to buy a (relatively) small-sized bag (compared to what)? And when using 一点儿 / yī diǎr (a little bit) instead of 一点  / yīdiǎn or 一点点 (supposedly the same as 一点儿), does it mean that the former is a really "tiny bit" -- something less significant than the latter?

And what about 饭店 / fàndiàn (restaurant) vs. 饭店儿 / fàndiànr - is the latter a smaller restaurant than the former?

Thank you,


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January 14, 2012, 02:50 AM

Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but 儿化音 (erhuayin) is not used as a diminutive. Some regions like to add a 'r' sound to the end of their words, most notably Beijing, and so 儿 is just a way to mimic this sound. 一点 and 一点儿 are the same darn things meaning wise. 

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January 14, 2012, 03:40 AM

You are both right - sometimes it doesn't change the meaning, sometimes it does include a slight modification.  If you want a complete explanation, See below from Handian - (2) includes the diminutive meaning you menotion.




(1) 儿化。汉语后缀的“儿”不自成音节,而和前面一个音节合在一起构成带卷舌韵母r的音节

(2) 多用作名词后缀 (1)∶表示小。如:盆儿;棍儿;小猫儿;小车儿 (2)∶表示词性变化。动词名词化,如:唱儿;逗笑儿。形容词名词化,如:亮儿;零碎儿 (3)∶表示具体事物抽象化。如:口儿;门儿;根儿 (4)∶表示词义变化。如:白面儿(海洛因);老家儿(对人称自己或别人的父母)

(3) 动词的后缀。如:玩儿;火儿

(4) 形容词后缀。如邵雍《首尾吟》:“天听虽高只些子,人情想去没多儿。”

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Thank you very much! 谢谢你

Found my example: 小猫儿 xiǎomāo'r; 小车儿 xiǎochē'r looks like something I could be able to use :)

Actually we have one 小猫儿 at home...

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Wow! The second meaning looks even more interesting ( 2 -2 ): change of lexical category.

So, did I get it correctly:

- 唱 chàng means "to sing"

- 唱儿 chà'r should then mean "song", correct?

(Sorry, I am using online dictionary to read the chinese text. My current level is somewhere between 150 and 200 words)

Now that's something reasonable to learn using :-)