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Mandarin aspirated and unaspirated initials

From:Freedberg, Bruce <bruce.freedberg@...>
Date:Friday, June 28, 2002, 12:54
> > > So a Mandarin speaker would (be likely to) recognize a voiced stop as > nonaspirated and vice-versa _even if the speaker were, say, Spanish, > and not making any aspirational distinction_? ie, they'd recognize > [p] as /p_h/ and [b] as /p/? I knew that the distinction was one of > aspiration, and that the Pinyin lined up with English, but I hadn't > considered how this worked with other languages. >
Unfortunately it doesn't work that way and I know that by experience. Most Mandarin speakers learning French have an extremely hard time learning to differentiate voiceless and voiced stops. It takes them years to learn to separate two words like "gateau" [gato]: cake and "cadeau" [cado]: present in speech. I know that by experience, having had Chinese neighbours when I lived in Paris. Christophe. My knowledge of phonetics is not great yet, so I am trying to understand the ramifications of this discussion for my pronunciation of Mandarin. I am a native English speaker and, when speaking Mandarin, what I believe I am doing is incorrectly voicing the unvoiced, unaspirated initials (e.g. pinyin "b" and "d" and "g") and correctly not voicing the aspirated ones (pinyin "p" "t" and "k"). I aspirate the latter rather heavily, which helps to distinguish the two sets. Does the redundancy of features mean that native Mandarin speakers are not going to have much trouble understanding what sound I am trying for, or are they just being polite when they assure me that they understand what they're hearing? (note: I don't seem to have any trouble distinguishing the two sets of sounds, which seems odd given how much trouble I have in consistently pronouncing them). Bruce


Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
BP Jonsson <bpj@...>