I think I can produce every individual phoneme in standard-ish spoken Mandarin.

However, if I want to speak fluently I have to watch videos of people speaking and closely watch their mouths, because mine isn't smart enough to put itself into an efficient shape for the next word.

I have resorted to drawing one word and then the next and then a figure showing the relative size of the mouth and arrows for its movement to remind me where my mouth should be.


# I use a diagram like this to remind me what shape my mouth should be in at a given word.

   这     个      留    下    
   --     __           __
  |  |   |__|     o   >--<
   --      ^

Is there a name for this sort of thing, or documentation for all the "mouth transitions" which a person has to make for a given language?

  • 1
    There are a number, depending on what's being discussed. One example is sandhi, a Sanskrit word describing the modification of sounds based on surrounding sounds; for example, in Sanskrit /s/ following /r/, /u/, /k/, or /i/ becomes retroflex /ṣ/. The term sandhi has been adopted into linguistics as a technical term. – jlawler Sep 13 at 15:20
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    articulatory/gestural phonology may be relevant here. It's a theory of phonology that focusses on the transitions between sounds which are called (articulatory) gestures. So, whilst you've acquired the phonemes of Mandarin, you might not have acquired all the necessary articulatory gestures – Tristan Sep 14 at 9:18
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