1

According to Wiedenhof's A Grammar of Mandarin, page 42,

The pronunciation of the final -ui [weı] vary with the accompanying tone for some speakers. With first or second tone, the u sound tends to be a vowel, followed by a schwa and a semivowel: -ui [uəj], as in tuī ‘push’ and huí ‘return’.

How is final [j] pronounced, especially after a vowel?

4
  • 1
    Which languages do you speak natively? In English, there's a final [j] in "fly", "may", and "boy".
    – Draconis
    Oct 11 '19 at 20:01
  • 1
    @Draconis the thing is to differentiate between the last sounds of [weı] and [uəj] in such contexts
    – GJC
    Oct 11 '19 at 20:22
  • 3
    The difference between i and j is generally a phonemic one, not a phonetic one, because nobody can really agree on a universal phonetic definition of "syllabic" or "vocalic" (especially in diphthong contexts).
    – Draconis
    Oct 11 '19 at 20:29
  • In many varieties of English, the off-glide is actually lower than [i̯]=[j], which is why it is transcribed [ɪ̯] rather than [j] or [i̯].
    – Miztli
    Oct 12 '19 at 1:51
1

There may be a difference between what an author writes as "ai" versus "aj", but this is usually a substitute for the difference between a sequence of vowels in different syllables versus a vowel plus high front vocoid in the same syllable. The difference could be written as [ai] versus [a.i], but writing syllable boundaries is not a popular option especially in a practical orthography.

There actually is a phonetic difference in North Saami between [u:C] (=[uuC]) and [uwC], which is auditorily very elusive, which is realized in subtle low-level differences in fricative noise in the case of [w] before certain consonants. In your case, the author seems to be saying something about low-level phonetics, and really there is no substitute for listening to examples – which isn't possible in this case. I would expect the duration of the [uj]-transcribed token to have a shorter duration on the palatal segment, compared to a token transcribed with [ui]. Generally, [j] has a much shorter duration compared to [i], also the constriction is often greater. He makes a similar statement about iu and tone two pages before – perhaps there is some phonetic study of the difference in Mandarin. I would expect the difference to be about duration.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.