iOS Users: Please click here for the latest information: (updated 5.10.2016)
Say It Right Series

Tone Sandhi in reduplications Advice

Posted by tingyun May 12, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.


I was hoping for some insight into the 3rd tone sandhi rule (ie, 2 third tones in a row becomes a second tone followed by a third) when dealing with reduplications where the second word becomes neutral.  An example I'm pretty sure about, is that 小姐, which is 3rd tone followed by neutral, is actually pronounced as 2nd tone followed by neutral (so, the 3rd tone rule operates even though the 2nd word has become neutral).  Another example of this is 哪里.

Beyond those 2 examples, I really am not sure about anything, and any knowledge or rules people know of would be welcome.

A few months back I tried using google to resolve this issue, and stumbled upon a post that seemed knowledgable, which I cut and pasted into my word document of notes (but without the authors name, so I cannot give credit).  However, I'm not sure whether or not it is correct - though for lack of a better recourse, I have been following its dictates.  I will include it below, so people can comment on what is correct or not. 

"Prefixes like (xiao3) and (lao3) will always undergo tone sandhi and change to second tone when the original tone of the following syllable is third tone: e.g., 小姐 (xiao2 jie5), 老虎 (lao2 hu5 or lao2 hu3), and 老鼠 (lao2 shu3 and lao2 shu?). When used as prefixes, I think they can belong to Group B or Group C, perhaps depending on the speaker, the circumstances, etc.. When used as adjectives, they always belong to Group C, for example, 小李 (Xiao2 Li3) used to address someone named Li.

Nouns created by reduplication belong to Group A, such as (
)本本 ((xiao2) ben3 ben5) (little booklet) and 寶寶 (bao3 bao5) (baby or "little treasure"). Kinship nouns like 姐姐 (jie3 jie5) (elder sister) and 奶奶 (nai3 nai5) (grandma) belong in this category as well.

Nouns being used as measure words and all adjectives and adverbs used in reduplications belong to Group B, such as
本本書 (ben2 ben5 shu1)(every book), 種種 (zhong2 zhong5)(every kind), 死死 (si2 si5)(tight, tightly), etc.

Verbs created by reduplication belong to Group A, such as
癢癢 (yang3 yang5)(itch) and 捻捻轉 (nian3 nian5 zhuanr4)(top) and are different from already existing volitional verbs that are used in reduplications. These latter belong to Group B, such as 捻捻 (nian2 nian5) (give a little twist with the fingers), 想想 (xiang2 xiang5)(think a little).

One interesting thing to note is that characters
, , and are treated differently depending on which pattern they belong to."


Thanks, and I appreciate any insight people have!

Comments (3) RSS

loading... Updating ...

To comment, please login.

Not sure if your comment is appropriate? Check our Commenting Policy first.

New lesson idea? Please contact us.