自问 Vs 自刎 in spoken chinese
Today I became aware of an usual mistake I made when speaking in chinese.
I don't know if it comes from my french background but I've a bad tendency to randomly put a second or a third tone after some words starting with a fourth tone.
Then 自白 (zìbái) and 自己 (zìjǐ) are not a problem but my 自问 (zìwèn) often sounds like 自刎 (zìwěn - cut one's own throat).
As "我自问" (and 让我想一想) is very useful to me, I already may have shocked quite a few people with this mistake.
Btw, I never had any problem with 请问 Vs 请吻 (see newbie lessons with Ken). The fourth tone comes naturally here.
tingyunAugust 18, 2009, 06:26 PM
Maybe some of the confusion has its source in how stress can effect tonal patterns. Just taking the 44 pattern, 重要zhong4yao4 has, I believe, much more stress on the first syllable, and the yao4 ends up being a weakened little fourth - somewhat like the half 3rd tone in some ways (though maybe also a bit like a neutral, but not quite). Or, to use a 34 example, take 可爱ke3ai4 - the ai4 seems to start up high like a normal 4th tone, but only drop a tiny bit, and so end pretty high. I think because a real 4th tone wouldn't sound right in a word that means "cute." Its possible you naturally picked up on patterns like this, and your brain accidentally interpretted it too broadly into a rule you apply unconciously to other words.
In other 44 combinations, the second charecter can recieve greater stress, and end up being more dramatic than a normal 4th tone. I'm not sure about your example - but if it sounds wrong, this might be the case. I'd just get a recording of a native speaker saying it, and then repeat after it 50-100 times, maybe also for some other words with the problem combination. You should be able to naturally copy the correct way of saying those words - though, again, it can be a very different pattern depending on the specific word, even if the tones are technically the same.
As another example, I'm convinced the 时 in 时间shi2jian1 is so weak it barely deserves to be called 2nd tone...best to be somewhat flexible and not believe too strongly that any given tone pattern is enough to know how to pronounce it...its just more complicated than that.
changyeAugust 19, 2009, 01:30 AM
As for 自问 (zi4wen4) and 自刎 (zi4wen3), I guess that a speaker usually pronounces "自刎" with emphasis on "刎" (wen3) so that a listener can correctly get the meaning of the rarely-used "unpleasant" word. Probably the same goes for 报酬 (reward, bao4chou) and 报仇 (revenge, bao4chou2). Anyway, you don't have to worry. In these cases, context is all.
xhycccAugust 19, 2009, 02:24 AM
Actually “自刎” is not a pop word for "suicide"...it may be only used in acient articles and poems...especially for those heros....
As a Chinese native speaker, I heard so many foreginers speaking in Chinese. I must point out that pronunciation is nothing... we can judge it through such context.