Vowels

The six vowels in Pinyin pronunciation are listed in the following page. They will be read in the first tone, which sounds like a sustained sung note. Please listen and repeat after me.

 

ā It sounds like the noise you might make when your doctor is examining the inside of your mouth. Open your mouth wide and say: aah. 
 

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ō Push your lips forward into a small circle, with your tongue at the bottom of your mouth, leaving a hollow space above it. Say: o. Your lips should make the shape they take when you say the English word law.

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ē

Make a sound as if you have seen something really disgusting: ergh. When e is used with other vowels it can also be pronounced ê which is similar to e in the English word bed”.

ē   or

 ē ________________________________________________________

ī Pull your lips slightly back and push your tongue up towards the hard palate without touching it. It is similar to the ea sound in the English word squeak.

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ū Push your lips forward and make a narrow gap through which your breath can vibrate. Your lips should take the shape they make when you say the word fool.

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ǖ It is similar to the umlaut ü in German or the French u. Say ee through tightly pursed lips (form the shape they make when you say the sh of the English word fish).

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When you have learnt how to pronounce these vowels individually, you can try to read out some combined vowels. I will read out the following groups of vowels in the first tone.

ā+ō=āo

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ā+ī=āi

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ū+ā=  

NB: if a word begins with u the written form is w, so ua would be written wa but still pronounced ua. ______________________________________________________________

 ī+ā=                      

NB: if a word begins with i the written form is y, so ia would be written ya but still pronounced ia. _______________________________________________________

There are some irregular features in Pinyin pronunciation. When the vowel ē comes before or after the vowels ī and ǖ, it should be pronounced e as in bed. Let's read the following 3 examples in the first tone.

ē=ēi  

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ī+ē =

NB: if a word begins with i the written form is y, so ie would be written ye but still pronounced ie. _______________________________________________________

ǖ+ē=üē

NB: if a word begins with ü the written form is y, so üe would be written yue but still pronounced üe. _______________________________________________________

When o is followed by u, the pronunciation of o is similar to the English letter "o". Listen and repeat after me.

o+ū=ōu

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I am going to read two groups of combined vowels that are written in an abbreviated form. Please listen and repeat carefully after me.

ī+ō+ū=

NB: if a word begins with i the written form is y, so the Pinyin for iu would be written you.

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ū+ē + ī=ūi

 

NB: if a word begins with u the written form is w, so ui would be written wei.