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Re: Tone question

From:Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Date:Thursday, February 2, 2006, 20:28
On 2/2/06, Henrik Theiling <theiling@...> wrote:
> Mark's second question has to be answered by a native speaker. But I > *suppose* the difference in p/b is percieved quite similar to tone > 1/tone 2. In the same way you notice that 'pa' and 'ba' have > something (namely, a vowel) in common,
I was referring the actual similarity between plain /p/ and /b/ themselves. /pa/ and /ba/ have more than a vowel in common; they have "almost the same" initial sound: same point of articulation, same manner of articulation, differing only in laxity/voice. But most native Anglophones think of /p/ and /b/ as utterly distinct, and do not notice how similar they are until it is pointed out to them(although exceptionally curious ones may notice it in the course of whispering etc). I, for instance, was blown away by the "voice" concept when I first ran across it in the appendix to _The_Return_of_the_King_, and most of the people I've spoken with on the subject were surprised as well - many of them were hearing the idea for the first time from me. Those who had heard it before had usually done so in the course of learning a foreign language.
>From my perspective as an outsider, it seems likely that the
intonation difference between ma1 and ma2 is similar to the laxity/voice difference between pa and ba. They have more than the initial consonant in common: they have the same underlying vowel, differing only in intonation. So my question is whether or not a native Sinophone hears the sameness in the vowel without training. Do they think of their language as having 25 distinct vowel sounds, or 5 vowel sounds x 5 tones? -- Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>