Blog Mistake Alert! Broke a Few Pīnyīn Rules

9 Mar

Just the one pīnyīn rule, actually. Still, I’m glad I caught the error now, rather than later – imagine if I had been feeding you incorrect pīnyīn for years. Forget about the problems that might have caused you – just think about all of the posts I would have to go back and correct! Just terrible. 😀

I’ve just been informed that I’ve been mistyping certain pīnyīn words in my posts. Whoops.

In my defense, the mistake is apparently a common one amongst Mandarin learners. It’s a matter of where you put the tone accent in the word. I don’t know about anyone else, but I basically just assumed that all tone accents went directly after the 声母 (shēngmǔ), or the initial of the word. (See my pīnyīn post if these terms sound unfamiliar.) I discovered today, though, that this rule I invented doesn’t always apply.

Generally speaking, it works. Take the common example “ma”. Mā is 妈,  má is 麻,  and so on. However, this isn’t the case with words that have medials, like “mian” or “yuan”.

In these words, the accent does not directly follow the 声母. The way I’ve been typing them so far (mìan, yǔan) is incorrect. It should actually be miàn and yuǎn. Why? Accents – as I learned today – do not go on medials, only on 韵母 (yùnmǔ – finals). Again, see the pīnyīn post if you feel fuzzy on the definitions.


mìan ( 😦 ) = bad / miàn (面) = good.

yuǎn (远) = good / yǔan ( 😦 ) = bad.

You probably didn’t need that, but it helps me to remember. 😀

A final summary of the pīnyīn rule: the accent always goes on the 韵母 (yùnmǔ – final), which does not always come directly after the  声母.

I’ll go back to correct my previous posts as soon as possible, but please just bear my convention error in mind for now. Thanks, everyone.


3 Responses to “Blog Mistake Alert! Broke a Few Pīnyīn Rules”

  1. wodezitie March 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Hee. Hi Rene, I often go to and just copy and paste the pinyin of words because it saves me time. NCIKU is my favorite Chinese dictionary. (I actually wrote a whole post on NCIKU, in case you’re not familiar with it already.) On the other hand, I think it’s very good practice to type in the accents manually, especially if you’re still learning pinyin. Thanks for teaching me about 韵母 and 声母.

    • TheZingR March 9, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      Thanks for the reference. Went back to one of your posts from January and found the Nciku intro extremely helpful. I’m still exploring it, but I think it’ll definitely join Memrise and ChinesePod in my language site toolbox.
      I did know about some pinyin copy-paste sites, but I figured it would be good to practice anyway. And it has helped – I’m much faster now than before. Though mistakes like this one sometimes happen… 😀
      Thanks for stopping by!


  1. First things first: Let’s learn/master/review Pinyin. | ABC Mandarin Mission - March 17, 2013

    […] on the 韵母, not the medials. That means 叫 should be jiào, not jìao. For more info, check out this post, where I confess my […]

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