Archive for Intonation

I feel like "I feel like"

[This is a guest post by Pamela Kyle Crossley]

Just read the blog post on this. I feel like "I feel like" is one of those passive-aggressive tics that came in in the 1980/1990s, related to that thing where people turned statements into questions by raising their pitch at the end of a sentence (which I think was originally a California-ism). That fake question stuff was passive-aggressive, and students used it addictively, particularly in discussion. "I'm asking, right? Not stating? So nobody can criticize me, right? I'm just asking a question? If I'm wrong, don't be harsh on me, right? I'm just asking?"  Very destructive. Students need to be able to make statements.

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Hummed "I don't know"

Following up on yesterday's "Dinosaur Intonation" post, here's Ryan North performing four repetitions of the contour featured in his comic:

His comment: "I fear I may have over estimated how universal it is but it's common here in Southern Ontario and I've never encountered anyone in my travels who didn't recognize it, or at least who couldn't figure it out from context and then asked me about it. I'm really curious to see the results of this survey!"

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When intonation overrides tone, part 6

Subtitle:  Virtuous / disgusting behavior / character

There's a common Mandarin put down that is much favored by Peking shopgirls:

Qiáo nǐ nà dé xìng ("Just look at that virtuous / disgusting behavior of yours!")

Readers will notice that I did not provide characters, since in truth there is a real problem knowing which character to choose for the last syllable.  There's no question whatsoever that it is pronounced in an emphatic fourth tone, which would make one think that it should be written as 性 ("nature; character").  The problem is that underlying the unmistakable fourth tone is an actual second tone, which should in fact be written as 行 ("conduct; behavior").

What's going on here?

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When intonation overrides tone, part 5

There are three ways to say "Monday" in Mandarin:

zhōu yī 週一
lǐbài yī 禮拜一 (you can also say this in the shortened form bài yī 拜一)
xīngqí yī / xīngqīyī 星期一

As usual with my classes at Penn, most of my students are from mainland China.  I asked one of them to pronounce those three ways of saying "Monday".  A student from Shangdong who speaks beautiful Mandarin read them this way:

zhōu yī 週一
lǐbài yī 禮拜一
xīngqīyì 星期一

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When intonation overrides tone, part 4

Some folks think that intonation never overrides tones, but I'm convinced on the basis of empirical evidence that it does.

For example:

Nǐ xiǎng gàn hā 你想干哈 –> Nǐ xiǎng gàn há 你想干哈 ("what do you want to do?") — especially in the Northeast.

Here are some other examples — all of them provided by native speakers of MSM (Modern Standard Mandarin):

A.
 
1. 不( bù ["no"]):Sometimes, I would say  不 ( bú) even though there is no falling tone character after  不 to invoke tone sandhi, such as "我不  ( bú)". This happens when somebody asks me to do something I don't like, I will say 不 ( bú) to express my rejection. 
 
2.中间 (zhōngjiān ["in; among; between; amidst"]): Sometimes, I would say 中间 (zhōngjiàn)to emphasize the place.  I think most people will commonly pronounce this phrase as  中间 (zhōngjiàn), but it is "wrong". 
 
3. 都 (dōu ["all"]):   I will pronounce this character as dóu when I want to emphasize the meaning "all." For example, 我都  (dóu) 写完了 I finish them all, 他都 (dóu) 吃完了,he ate them all. But here, I am thinking about whether I am influenced by 东北 Northeastern / dongbei topolect because I think dongbei people will commonly use the pronunciation dóu .

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A Chinese citizen's thoughts on Matt Pottinger's speech in Mandarin

The CCP government has done its utmost to prevent Chinese citizens from viewing Matt Pottinger's remarkable May Fourth speech (see "Selected Readings" below) or even from reading about it or expressing their ideas concerning it.  Yet some of them have taken the risk of using illegal VPNs to jump the Great Firewall (GFW) and have managed to see Pottinger's presentation with their own eyes.  Among those who have watched the video of Pottinger's speech, some have dared to express their reactions to it.  Here is one:

I watched Matt Pottinger's message. His Chinese is excellent except for his stressing on more than necessary words that makes him sound a bit unnatural like machine-generated. Had he been acquainted with the subtleness of spoken Chinese, he would definitely qualify for an A+.

Not surprisingly, his message can't be watched within the GFW. What's on the news are the slams and abuses on the message from the official media. Some curious people might wonder what the original message is and climb over the walls to explore. There are quite a few comments on the official news demanding access to the original message of Pottinger so that people may "join the government to criticize".

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Emergency in B flat

In his 2/15/2019 announcement about declaring a state of emergency on the southern border, President Trump used a striking sequence of fifteen singsong phrases:

So the uh the order is signed. And uh I'll f- I'll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office. And we will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, uh even though it shouldn't be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we'll get another bad ruling, and then we'll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we'll get a fair shake and we'll win in the Supreme Court. Just like the ban, they sued us in the 9th Circuit and we lost, and then we lost in the appellate division, and then we went to the Supreme Court and we won.

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Baby talk, part 2

Two days ago, I was sitting in a Panera around lunch time.  Next to me was a mother with two young daughters.  One of them looked to be about four years old, and the other about one and a half year old.

The girls were both well behaved, and I enjoyed their company for more than an hour.  Without intentionally eavesdropping, I could not but overhear what they were talking about.  After half an hour, I started to become amused by the younger daughter's speech, because it consisted entirely of the following three words:

1. no! — falling intonation

2. what? — rising intonation

3. why!? — half-falling then half-rising, sounding somewhat plaintive and querulous

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What do Chinese truckers want to overthrow?

Last week there were large scale truckers strikes in many parts of China.  China watchers around the world were stunned, especially since some of the strikers were shouting out what sounded like "overthrow the Communist Party!", as at 3:48 in this video.

Here's the audio portion of the leader of one of the strikes shouting what sounds like "dǎdǎo gòngchǎndǎng 打倒共产党" ("overthrow the Communist Party") into a microphone, followed by a throng of truckers responding in unison.

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The wonder of Cantonese particles

Rosalyn Shih has an entertaining and informative piece called "Let's Go Laaaaaaaa:  And learn Cantonese particles" in LARB China Channel (5/1/18)

Some highlights:

…In Singapore, particles have migrated to English, prompting the Quora thread “Why do Singaporeans say lah at the end of every sentence?”

It seems that the more southern the Chinese-speaker, the more particles he or she might use. Citing various studies from 1924 to 1994, Language Log notes the estimates of Cantonese particles are anywhere from 30 to 206….

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Stress, emphasis, pause, and meaning in Mandarin

In "Mandarin Janus sentences" (11/4/17), there arose the question of whether duōshǎo 多少 ("how many") and duō shǎo 多少 ("how few") are spoken differently.  I'm very glad that, in the comments, Chris Button recognizes that Sinitic languages can have stress.  (The same is doubtless true of other tonal languages).

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Sorry, my Chinese is not so good

Music video by a trio of English musicians singing about learning Chinese:

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When intonation overrides tone, part 2

Richard Warmington has a deep interest in the relationship between tone and intonation, especially in Mandarin.  He has made a number of penetrating observations and asked a series of probing questions on this phenomenon.  Since this is also a subject that has come up numerous times on Language Log (see below for a several previous posts), I will list here a few of Richard's remarks about tones and intonation, with an eye toward encouraging further discussion.

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