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I've hear on many occasions that Chinese prolong the last word in a sentence, for example:

ni hao ma ?

becomes

ni hao maaaaa ?

(I'm not sure that's clear enough but can't think of a better way to describe)

What is the purpose of this? Does it have any cultural meaning? What does it convey?

Edit: Perhaps I misunderstood, maybe it's 你好吗啊? with the 啊 being longer than usual?

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You mean like Ni hao ma~~~? –  Kabie Dec 14 '11 at 22:12
    
I tried to say it in different ways, but ni hao maaaa does not really ring a bell. On the contrary, ma can be very short and shift the sentence into ni hao me ?. FYI, am Northerner, it could be a different story from Southerner. :P –  Flake Dec 14 '11 at 22:18
2  
I only notice this with people from Guangdong, something to do with the way they speak in Cantonese maybe? Thai people speak in a very similar way. But I don't think it's universal around China. –  Ciaocibai Dec 14 '11 at 22:36
    
I've updated the question with potential clarification. –  dr Hannibal Lecter Dec 14 '11 at 23:20
    
How long specifically? Is the dragging sounds loudly? Is there any other example? –  Kabie Dec 14 '11 at 23:24
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5 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This kind of case is usually occurs on these occasions:

  1. When you are standing at top of the mountain, you feel very exciting, and shout out with prolonging the each word(like niiiiiii haooooooo maaaaaaa) or just the last word(like ni hao maaaaaaa). Mum, so exciting! :p
  2. It usually occurs in young people, especially the female. Some cute girls will often prolong the word in front of her boyfriend. 你好吗~~~(ni hao maaaa), 想我吗~~~(xiang wo maaaaaaa), etc. This is often described as 嗲(dia3) in Chinese. When chatting via Internet, ~/'/. characters will often used as the word prolonged.
  3. Sometimes, wife will do like this in front of her husband. Just like the case No.2. :)

And for your last question: you did not misunderstand. :)

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I did not misunderstand as in "it is 啊" or "it isn't 啊"? :) –  dr Hannibal Lecter Dec 15 '11 at 14:53
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@drHannibalLecter there's no after 你好吗. :) –  Kjuly Dec 15 '11 at 14:56
    
Thanks for clarifying! –  dr Hannibal Lecter Dec 15 '11 at 15:12
    
@drHannibalLecter you're welcome! :D –  Kjuly Dec 15 '11 at 15:14
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It's very uncommon...

What I can think of is... usually when people talk to a baby or when a girl whine to her boyfriend...

Maybe sometimes when a native speaker talk to a foreigner.(I think it's because the person is afraid the foreigner won't follow what he/she says)

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My friend was often in a Chinese restaurant in Budapest, he says the Chinese there spoke like that all the time amongst themselves. I have also seen/heard it in movies? –  dr Hannibal Lecter Dec 14 '11 at 23:04
1  
Hey man, how are yoooooooouuuuuuuuuuu? I do that all the time... –  Nate Glenn Dec 14 '11 at 23:15
    
@drHannibalLecter Ah, but were they Mandarin or Cantonese speakers tho? –  Cocowalla Dec 15 '11 at 7:45
    
@Cocowalla: Good question..I'm not sure really! According to my friend, these weren't even questions, they just talk like that quite often.. –  dr Hannibal Lecter Dec 15 '11 at 14:52
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I think this is only personal accent. I have never found that pronunciation among people I know. Theoretically, we don't extend any pronunciation, but I think you can do that when you want to emphasize that character.

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I think the words didn't get extended.

it's a tone as a question sentence.

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Tone as a question? Can you please elaborate? –  dr Hannibal Lecter Dec 15 '11 at 14:52
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If this speaking is usually mixed with a drop in tone on the word before, it's just a cutesy speak.

Note that the extended word gets elevated tone, but drops to normal tone right before the end.

           /maaaaaa\
ni\       /         \aa
   \_hao_/

Girls in japanese anime do that all the time.

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