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Lesson Transcript

Matt: Hello everybody and welcome again to Pronunciation class number 3. I'm Matthew and I'm joined today by the phonological in-doubt, Nicole.
Nicole: Hi everyone!
Matt: So Nicole. this is the impossible lesson, right?
Nicole: What?
Matt: The scary one. The one that made me cry.
Nicole: Don't be silly. Tone changes aren't that hard!
Matt: Ok, I was only kidding with you. They're actually pretty easy. Why don't you take us through the rules?
Nicole: Rules?
Matt: There *are* rules, right?
Nicole: Yeah, I was just kidding. Yes, there are rules. There are some exceptions, but this is how things generally work.
Matt: OK on Rule number one: Uplifting of Low Tones for Phonological Reasons.
Nicole: What did you just say?
Matt: I just got scared.
Nicole: Uplifting of...?
Matt: Uplifting of Low Tones for Phonological Reasons! You wrote this! I don't understand this in English!!!
Nicole: Ahh.. OK this is easy. If you've got a two character word, like 角落 (gok3 lok6). The tone of the second character changes, It's slightly uplifting to the tone 1, 角落 (gok3 lok1).
Matt: So a honological change?
Nicole: Come on, ignore the script. You remember the word 荷蘭 (ho4 laan1), right?
Matt: That means Holland.
Nicole: Right. 荷蘭 (ho4 laan1).
Matt: Holland.
Nicole: 荷蘭 (ho4 laan1).
Matt: Holland.
Nicole: It's very easy. You see, the second tone is supposed to be in the lower register, in a lower pitch, 荷蘭 (ho4 laan4).
Matt: a low sound.
Nicole: Yes. But we slightly lift it up because it feels more natural. So instead of saying 荷蘭 (ho4 laan4), we say 荷蘭 (ho4 laan1).
Matt: Alright, so we're doing not just because it's cool then.
Nicole: Well, maybe! And, I should mention, another common change in the Cantonese tones is with the character 一 (jat1).
Matt: That means "one"
Nicole: Yep. 一 (jat1).
Matt: Yep or 一 (jat1)?
Nicole: It's similar, it's similar. 一 (jat1). That's an easy way to remember the word. 一 (jat1).
Matt: Ok, so that's "one".
Nicole: Yes, so when the character “一” is taken out between two identical words, the first identical character might acquire a Tone 2.
Matt: You did this on purpose, did you?
Nicole: Did what?
Matt: to confuse me.
Nicole: No. I'll give you an example. The phrase 一個一個 (jat1 go3 jat1 go3).
Matt: Literally One + measure word + one + measure word. Or "one by one".
Nicole: yes. 一個一個 (jat1 go3 jat1 go3).
Matt: One by one.
Nicole: yes. So, in Cantonese the tone change rule apply here like this, we don't say 一個一個 (jat1 go3 jat1 go3), we say 一個個 (jat1 go2 go3).
Matt: Ok. Let's explain to the listeners what we did there. You've got a number, followed by a measure word, a number again, followed by a measure word; then when you're saying it, you're condensing it to three, you still say the number, but then you put the two measure words together, dropping the second repeating number. So it's Number + measure word + measure word.
Nicole: Yes.
Matt: The first measure word were changed in the tone, we're elevating that tone a little bit so that it sounds phonetically correct, or phonologically correct, I should say.
Nicole: That's true.
Matt: So let's hear it one more time.
Nicole: 一個個 (jat1 go2 go3)
Matt: Ok, and now let's hear it without the change, with all four of the words.
Nicole: 一個一個 (jat1 go3 jat1 go3). So you see the measure words were supposed to be 個(go3), it's a lower pitch, however we change it to 個(go2), like asking a question.
Matt: Ok, final time, right away.
Nicole: 一個個 (jat1 go2 go3)
Matt: Ok, now shoot me another example, Nicole.
Nicole: Sure! Remember the word 試 (si3)?
Matt: Yeah I remember it, it means “to try”.
Nicole: Yep. 試 (si3).
Matt: “to try”
Nicole: So we make 試一試 (si3 jat1 si3).
Matt: “To give something a try” or “to give a try”.
Nicole: Yes, we make it shorter to be 試試 (si3 si3).
Matt: Literally 'try try', or ”to give a try”.
Nicole: 試試 (si3 si3), that's wrong pronunciation; we lift the first character to a slightly upper level, upper pitch, 試試 (si2 si3).
Matt: Ok. So two changes so far. First, our Uplifting of Low Tones for Phonological Reasons.
Nicole: For example 荷蘭 (ho4 laan1).
Matt: And the second rule we have is about the number "one".
Nicole: 一(jat1), and the example we have here is 一個個 (jat1 go2 go3).
Matt: Now what's the third rule here?
Nicole: Family!
Matt: You change your tone when talking to family?
Nicole: No, stupid. These are family names, like 爸爸 (ba4 ba1),
Matt: “Father”.
Nicole:哥哥 (go4 go1);
Matt: “older brother”
Nicole: 弟弟 (dai4 dai2),
Matt: “Younger brother”
Nicole: and 妹妹 (mui4 mui2)
Matt: “Younger sister”. Now, in all of our examples here, the two words are exactly the same but we’re assigning them different tones. Our first syllable dips to Tone 4 while our second syllable rises to Tone 1 or 2.
Nicole: That's true. 爸爸 (ba4 ba1), “father”. 哥哥 (go4 go1) “older brother”
Matt: That's right. So you can see the pattern here.
Nicole: Yep, in fact, if you see it from the script, you can see there are two identical characters but when we are actually pronouncing it, we put different tones on them, lower and then higher. However, some family names are non reduplicated...
Matt: That means they're not just the same character repeated several times.
Nicole: In these cases we just change the second syllable. Like 家姐 (gaa1 ze1),
Matt: “older sister”.
Nicole: It was supposed to be 家姐 (gaa1 ze2), however we changed the second syllable to a higher tone, 家姐 (gaa1 ze1).
Matt: Do you have any other examples?
Nicole: Sure! 表妹 (biu2 mui2).
Matt: That means “cousin sister”.
Nicole: Right. I don't know if it makes sense in English, but we do have that name, that's the family name for “cousin sister” 表妹 (biu2 mui2). It was supposed to be 表妹 (biu2 mui6), so 妹(mui6) was changed to 妹(mui2), to a higher tone.
Matt: Alright, I think that's clear.
Nicole: Alright, so that's three reasons for Cantonese tone changes.
Matt: Ok, let's review those again. First, the Uplifting of Low Tones for Phonological Reasons.
Nicole: Stop making fun of my script.
Matt: You wrote it.
Nicole: But yes, that's number one. As with 荷蘭 (ho4 laan1) Holland.
Matt: Then we have family names rule.
Nicole: No! Then we have the number one rule! About the character 一 (jat1).
Matt: Ahh, that’s right. I'm on track now.
Nicole: Ok, 一個個 (jat1 go2 go3)or 試試 (si2 si3).
Matt: And THEN comes the family rule.
Nicole: That's right. Like 爸爸 (baa4 baa1), 哥哥 (go4 go1); 弟弟 (dai4 dai2), and 妹妹 (mui4 mui2).
Matt: That's only if they're reduplicated.
Nicole: Sure. Or 家姐 (gaa1 ze1), 表妹 (biu2 mui2) if they're not.
Matt: And there is still ONE MORE, right?
Nicole: Right. Sometimes, Cantonese speakers will change their tone for semantic reasons.
Matt: Ok, I just got confused again.
Nicole: confused about semantic?
Matt: Stop speaking Cantonese.
Nicole: Oh... it means when you want to change the meaning.
Matt: Right. For example.
Nicole: For example, 相 (soeng3) “appearance” becomes (soeng2) “photograph”. 糖 (tong4) “sugar” → (tong2) “candy”;
Matt: Well that kinda makes sense.
Nicole: Yep, we're changing the meanings of the characters, so we're changing the tones to indicate that.
Matt: And for many verbs and adjectives, you can change the word to Tone 2 and that will make it a noun.
Nicole: That's right, for example: 鉗 (kim4) “to grip” → (kim2) “pincers”; 掃 (sou3) “to sweep” → (sou2) “broom”; and 袋 (doi6) “to pocket” → (doi2) “a pocket”.
Nicole: That's right.
Matt: And my favorite one.
Nicole: 犯 (faan6) “to commit a crime” → (faan2) “criminal”.
Matt: There we have it.
Nicole: I told you it was that easy.
Matt: You did! And it kinda was!
Nicole: Well, can you still remember the four rules?
Matt: I can't forget number #1: Uplifting of Low Tones for Phonological Reasons.
Nicole: 荷蘭 (ho4 laan1)
Matt: Number two is number one.
Nicole: That's when you take out the number one. 一個個 (jat1 go2 go3) instead of 一個一個 (jat1 go3 jat1 go3), one-by-one.
Matt: And number three is family rule.
Nicole: Yeah that kinda makes sense, you always have to treat family specially. 爸爸 (baa4 baa1), 哥哥 (go4 go1), “father” and “brother”.
Matt: And number four is....
Nicole: You already forgot it?
Matt: Just kidding. Number four is changing verbs into nouns.
Nicole: Yep, that's right. Or in reverse, you can change nouns into verbs. That can't be very hard to remember.
Matt: You'll pick that one up over time. And the best way to do it is actually to keep listening to CantoneseClass101.com.
Nicole: True. One small thing that needs notice is, the tone changes are reflected in the oral pronunciation of the tones only, not in the written form.
Matt: The written Jyutping form still reflects the original tone of the character, so make sure you don’t get confused!
Nicole: Yep, it can be very confusing to just listen to our podcast, so if you can download the PDF from the Premium Learning Center and see the transcript while you're listening to our podcast, It'll be very helpful.


Matt: Alright, that's all we have for today, thanks a lot for coming down, and we'll see you next time.
Nicole: See you!