Chinese tones make easy!
A. what are Chinese tones?
Everybody speaks with pitch rising and falling. In non-tonal languages such as English and Russian the pitch undulation is called intonation, which adds mood meaning to the sentence. Naturally, Chinese has its intonations as well.
With an English or Russian sentence the pitch contour is smooth as the curve when you look at the shape of the wave from the side.
But for a Chinese sentence, while the whole sentence has its intonation, every syllable (a word, or a morpheme/combining form which was a word in classical Chinese either) has its intrinsic pitch wave at the same time. Therefore the pitch curves of Chinese are different from those of English or Russian.
In this essay we'll be talking about the Mandarin tones.
Traditionally it's said that Mandarin has four tones (besides "the slight tone": a variety for all four tones with variable pitch contours depending on the tone of the previous syllable):
阴平/the first tone: high level tone with a value of 55
阳平/the second tone: middle-high rising tone with a value of 35
上声/ the third tone: half low-low-half high falling and rising tone with a value of 214
去声/the fourth tone: high-low falling tone with a value of 51
The two in between are the difficulty for many CASL (Chinese-as-a-second-language) learners.
The above descriptions of the sencond and third tones are not actually so scientific and this is partly the reason why CASL learners feel Chinese tones notably difficult.
Aiming to make tones easier for CASL learners, we'll be trying to give a new description of Chinese tones and then talk about how to make them in different phonetic environments so that their tones will sound as possibly precise and natural as those by the native Chinese speakers'.