Mandarin

Initials

Learning Objectives


Chinese Pinyin has 21 Initials. Initials are similar to consonants in English.  According to their phonetic characteristics, initials are classified into 6 categories as follows:


1. Labials,


2. Dentals,


3. Velars,


4. Palatals,


5. Aveolars or Flat Tongue Initials,


6. Retroflexes or Curled Tongue Initials.


Learning Video

 

Additional Notes

Chinese Pinyin has 21 Initials.  Initials are similar to consonants in English.


According to their phonetic characteristics, initials are classified into 6 categories as follows:


First, the initials are called Labials (b, p, m, f), their pronunciations are the same as in English. When you pronounce Labial initials, you need to use your lips.


Second, the initials are called Dentals (d, t, n, l), when you pronounce Dental initials, you need to use your tongue touching or near the back of your upper teeth.


Third, the initials are called Velars (g k h), when you pronounce Velar initials, you need to use your soft palate.


Fourth, the initials are called Palatals (j, q, x), when you pronounce Palatal initials, you need to use the tip of your tongue directly against the back of the lower teeth, and the lips must be tight and pulled widely apart, as in a forced smile.


Fifth, the initials are called ‘Aveolars’ or ‘Flat Tongue Initials’ (z, c, s), when you pronounce Aveolar initials,

you need to put the tip of your tongue against the back of your upper front teeth.


Sixth, the initials are called ’Retroflexes’ or ‘Curled Tongue Initials’ (zh, ch, sh, r), when you pronounce Retroflex initials, you need to curl your tongue backwards.


Having learnt the basic about the initials of Chinese pinyin, you need to know more about 3 general rules of using them:

  • Initials are always placed at the beginning of a syllable.

  • Initials cannot be pronounced separately and therefore we always put initials and finals together.

  • A zero initial is feasible, where nothing comes before the final sound.

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