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the usage is classical and shows up at least as far back as mencius: 吾豈好辨哉？吾不得已也。Here the meaning is quite literally "I cannot (不) achieve/obtain (得) an end (已)" to my argumentativeness. In other words, i have no choice but to argue. You might compare it with the much more colloquial 不得不. By the way be careful about the whole multi-character words thing. ...
Edit: Sorry that I misunderstood the question. I thought Maroon was talking about non-native Cantonese speakers. Most native Mandarin speakers have trouble handling the rising (上聲) and departing tones (去聲) in Cantonese. It is because Cantonese further differentiates them into high-rising (陰上), low-rising (陽上), high-level (陰去) and low-level (陽去). ...
This should be sufficient. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin#Finals You don't really need to learn 注音, pinyin matches "real" pronunciation quite well. The only changes for convenience are the merging of three different i sounds (jqx-zcs-zhchsh), that any word with pinyin "w--" is really the equivalent "u--" sound without an initial, and that any word ...
As a native speaker, I don't think yan and huan rhyme, but yan and xuan do. I think their endings can be written in IPA as: yan - ɛn huan - ɑn xuan - ɛn Only the last vowel and following coda count as 韵, the [u] in huan and the [ɥ] in xuan don't matter.
不得已 can be considered as a word, just like the single English word, so there is no rule to this. And here the pronunciation of 得 in this expression is "de ".
得 also means 可以 (allowed, permitted), such as 不得吸烟(no smoking) 不(bù): not 得(dé): allowed 已(yǐ): to stop so not allowed to stop [something] becomes [something] must happen becomes to have to
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