September 04, 2013, 03:55 AM posted in General Discussion

The different tones are really throwing me into confusion. Is there a progressive scale pitch wise that they follow? Or does it have to do with inflection? If I learn the basic pronuciation of the words on this site and then try to use those words will I totally change the meaning of what I am saying simply by changing the pitch or inflection? Will the meanings of the words themselves change?

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September 04, 2013, 04:57 AM

The actual pitch is not important. 'Tone' refers to how the tone changes. ie. flat, rising, falling then rising, or falling.

Meaning changes with the tone. Whether using the wrong tone totally confuses the listener, or whether the listener can pick up the word you meant to say from the context ...

... its the same as a foreigner try to utter in English: "Cows like to eat glass". We know the word is wrong, but we know the meaning that was meant to be conveyed. But if we heard "Coes leek toe it glass" then we would probably have difficulty understanding (unless we had a Scottish father and a Japanese mother).

Tone is just an extra facet to pronunciation. Changing from one tone to another will change the meaning in the same way as changing from "grass" to "glass" changes the meaning - there is no logical connection between the two words, other than their pronunciations are very close.

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September 04, 2013, 06:21 AM

It kind of depends what word is pronounced with the wrong tones.  For example, da4 jia1 (大家 everyone), if happen to pronounce that like da3 jia4 (打架 to fight), then the meaning will change, but the thing is that there is no situation where they could ever be confused because one is a pronoun, and one is a verb.  On the other hand, if you pronounced diu1 ren2 (丢人 to lose face) with the wrong tones, you are very unlikely to change the meaning because there aren't any words (that I can think of) that have diu ren that isn't thing word.  It will just sound weird, but people will know what you are saying.

The chances of you saying something ridiculous are very slim, so don't worry about that.  But I would suggest you make sure you master tones, because I personally think Chinese with bad tones sounds ugly, but that's just me.