The Four Tones

Display 1 diagrams the pitch patterns of the four tones and gives their descriptive names and traditional numbers. As examples, four single-syllable words with completely different meanings but different to the ear only in their tones are pronounced at the beginning of the Tones Videos. 1/11/Display_1_800.png"> The tone diagrams may be read as musical notations. The vertical dimension stands for pitch, with the top of the diagram slightly above your normal pitch range in English and the bottom slightly below. The horizontal dimension stands for duration. The thickness of the curve stands for loudness. These diagrams show the tones as they are heard in isolated syllables. The High tone (or First tone) has a steady high pitch and average length. You may find it somewhat uncomfortable to pronounce at first, since a steady high pitch is seldom used in English - your only relevant experience comes from music. Notice that the accent mark which represents this tone in the romanization captures the level contour rather than the high pitch. The Rising tone (or Second tone) rises from the middle of the pitch range to the top, it too has average length. Unlike the rising intonation used in English for questions, the Rising tone gets louder as it rises. Notice that the tone mark in the romanization rises from left to right. The Low tone (or Third tone) starts low, dips to the bottom of the pitch range, and then rises. The lowest part of this tone is the most distinctive, the part to focus on both when you are trying to pronounce the tone and when you are trying to recognize it. The lowest part takes the greatest effort and is the most prominent, despite the fact that it is actually not quite as loud as the rest of the tone. This part is exaggerated, both in length and in pitch, when the syllable is stressed for emphasis. Particularly with male speakers, it may have a harsh, scraping quality. The Low tone has greater than average length. In English a similar intonation is sometimes used for "Well?" when you have been waiting to hear something. Notice that the tone mark captures the dipping pitch pattern. The Falling tone (or Fourth tone) starts at the top of the pitch range and drops sharply to the bottom, diminishing in loudness as it drops, It has shorter than average length. In English the falling intonation used for exclamations, as in "Well!" is similar, but the Falling tone starts higher and ends lower than all but our most emphatic exclamations. Notice that the tone mark falls from left to right.
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