Chinese Pronunciation

Pinyin Section 9

I with Z, C, S, ZH, CH, SH, R

Although none of the pinyin letters presented in this section are new, the Mandarin consonant sounds zh, ch, and sh, as well as the z, c, and s sounds combine with i to produce a slightly different sound from the basic "ee" sound of pinyin i that you learned in Section 8.

To learn how to approximate this vowel sound, first start to say the word "shirt" (North American pronunciation), but stop just as the "r" sound is beginning. Your tongue should naturally be a little further back (as discussed in Section 4) in anticipation of the "r" sound.

If you can cut off the word "shirt" at the proper place, then you should be doing an approximation of the Mandarin syllable shi. Now apply the same vowel sound to the syllables zhi and chi. For zi, ci, and si, the vowel sound is very similar. You should be able to master it by simply listening to it over and over and imitating it.

Mandarin’s r sound also sounds a bit different when combined with i. It is closer to the zhi, chi, and shi sounds mentioned above than the basic "ee" sound of pinyin i that you learned in Section 4.

Linguist's Note:

The following are the IPA symbols for this section's pinyin vowel sounds:

Mandarin: zi [tsɿ] Mandarin: zhi [ʈʂʅ]
Mandarin ci [tsʰɿ] Mandarin: chi [ʈʂʰʅ]
Mandarin: si [sɿ] Mandarin: shi [ʂʅ]
      Mandarin: ri [ʐʅ]

Note also that the only i vowel sound that pinyin z, c, s, zh, ch, sh, and r combine with is plain "i" (not ia, iao, ie, etc.).

Listen to the sounds of this section and try repeating them by clicking on the syllables below:

  i ia iao ie iu ian iang in ing iong
z zi                  
c ci                  
s si                  
zh zhi                  
ch chi                  
sh shi                  
r ri