(names changed to save my face)
Me: So, are you and Jenny…you know…an “item” now?
Tommy: Oh yeah. You didn’t know that?
Me: I just heard from Edgar. How long has that been going on?
Tommy: Hmm…I guess since about May.
The moral of the story (of my life) is: I’m always the last to know.
New Tone Diagram
In keeping with the theme, I just recently saw this post from John Pasden (9 months behind everyone else is pretty good for me).
John has drawn a new tones diagram that’s supposed to be better than the standard tones diagram at showing what really happens when native Chinese speakers talk normally.
The Old Standard Diagram:
John’s New Tone Diagram:
The only thing new about this diagram is the 3rd tone but I immediately saw the sense to it.
The fact is: most of the time, native speakers just hit the bottom of the 3rd tone, exactly like this diagram shows.
This diagram is especially useful for showing what happens when tones appear in combination. And when don’t they?! I mean, how many of us have one-syllable conversations?! You’ll always be saying at least two syllables in a row, and that means two tones in a row.
Without mapping out all 20 combinations of two tones (4 x 5 because of that “neutral tone” which moves around), this diagram is good for a quick rule of thumb for where that 3rd tone is most of the time.
I’d like to post my diagrams for the 20 different combinations of two tones but since those appear in my book, I’ll have to check with my publisher to make sure I’m not violating something (although I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t sue myself).
Tones are the single biggest challenge to learning Mandarin and we laowai need better conceptual models than the traditional diagram and rules. Thanks John and Dr. Rongrong Liao of the Defense Language Institute for getting the ball rolling.