The Four Tones in Mandarin Chinese

by Hsin-Yun Yao

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Talking about tones, we refer to the rising and falling of the pitch in the prononciation. Based on the duration and the pitch of sound, we regroup them into four groups, called "the four tones". The four "tone signs" are the symbols representing the four tones. They must be appeared in the upper-right corner following the last phonetic symbol in a word.

First Tone

Tone sign : " - " (Normally the tone sign for the first tone is omitted)
Pitch level: 5 - 5
A high-pitch tone without variation from the beginning to the end

Second Tone

Tone sign: " / "
Pitch level: 3 - 5
The tone starts from a lower level and ends up high

Third Tone

Tone sign: " "
Pitch level: 2 - 1 - 4
A tone that begins in the middle level, goes down, bounds up and ends up with a relatively higher pitch.

Forth Tone

Tone sign: " \ "
Pitch level: 5 - 1
A falling tone that starts high and ends low

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