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THEORY: Mandarin vowel phonology

From:John Cowan <cowan@...>
Date:Monday, October 11, 1999, 16:04
The surface structure of a Mandarin syllable consists of an initial
consonant, a medial glide, a vowel, a final glide, a final consonant,
and a tone.  All of these except the vowel are optional.

Initial consonants are quite varied, and will not be considered here.
Final consonants are zero or "n" /n/ or "ng", which can be a full /N/ or
a nasalization.  They will not be considered here either.  Neither will tones.
There is also syllabic retroflexion, written in Pinyin by adding "-r"
to the syllable.  This has complex effects which I am ignoring.

The following is a complete list of vowel nuclei:

Pinyin                  IPA                     Analysis

a                       /a/                     zero + /a/ + zero
e                       /@/                     zero + /@/ + zero
i (after sh, ch, zh)    /:/                     zero + zero + zero
i (elsewhere)           /i/                     /j/ + zero + zero
ia, ya                  /ja/                    /j/ + /a/ + zero
ie, ye                  /j@/                    /j/ + /@/ + zero
u                       /u/                     /w/ + zero + zero
ua                      /wa/                    /w/ + /a/ + zero
uo, wo, o               /w@/                    /w/ + /@/ + zero
u", yu                  /y/                     /y<glide>/ + zero + zero
u"e, yue                /y<glide>@/             /y<glide> + /@/ + zero
iai, yai                /jai/                   /j/ + /a/ + /j/
uai, wai                /wai/                   /w/ + /a/ + /j/
uei, wei                /wei/                   /w/ + /@/ + /j/
au                      /au/                    zero + /a/ + /w/
ou                      /ou/                    zero + /@/ + /w/
iau, yau                /jau/                   /j/ + /a/ + /w/
iou, you                /jou/                   /j/ + /@/ + /w/

John Cowan                         
       I am a member of a civilization. --David Brin