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My daughter's preschool has a Mandarin language immersion program and the teacher (from Fuzhou, Fujian province) seems to pronounce "knee" (膝盖) as qīgài instead of xīgài.

Is qīgài a correct alternative pronunciation, or is her own dialect incorrectly corrupting her Mandarin pronunciation? If the latter, what other pronunciation errors is she likely to make?

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It is a non-standard pronunciation, but it is reasonably common. It is not in any way associated with the Fuzhou dialect specifically — even some northerners say qigai. Here's an interesting blog post and discussion about the free variation of the pronunciations of knee.

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My understanding (without any proof) is that xi1 is prescriptive pronunciation made by some committee, as every one person I know pronounces it as qi1 before "corrected" by a school teacher. My and my friends' parents came from all over China, they all say qi1 gai4. – NS.X. Oct 25 '12 at 21:32
I have heard of both. I pronounce it like xi1gai4. – deutschZuid Oct 25 '12 at 22:04
Another thing I've learnt form this site! Everyone I know pronounces it as qigai. – xiaohouzi79 Oct 26 '12 at 3:22
Most native speakers pronounce it as qigai. But in an exam like college entrance exam, usually there is a question for phonetic symbols. And qigai is considered incorrect here. Also in any serious programme in TV or radio, professional broadcasters pronounce it as xigai. – halfelf Oct 29 '12 at 9:07
@halfelf …So I'm a guy who isn't belong to the _most_囧. I believe with the development of elementary education, xīgài will be more and more popular. – xzczd Nov 7 '12 at 11:12

:-) don't waste time on this. Xi1 Gai4 is correct and will be more and more popular.


If you are preparing an exam, keep Xi1 in mind, or feel free to pronounce it. In China, there's numerous dialects. If you live in a small village of Fujian, you may even not understand what the neighboring village's people saying because of the mountains. This is the reason why people need Mandarin living in this big country with so many mountains, especially in South China.

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Xi1 Gai4 is the standard pronunciation in Mandarin; If you are taking an exam, Xi1 Gai4 is the only correct answer.

But in daily life, Qi1 Gai4 is so widely used that most Chinese don't distinguish them.

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i don't think Qi1 Gai4 is widely used. – LiuYan 刘研 Nov 20 '12 at 2:07

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