2

Could someone explain how to pronounce 太监 in China and Taiwan? I've heard it be tai4 jian1 as well as seen it (in Pleco) as tai4 jian4

1
  • tai4 jian0 or tai4 jian1(little odd), no tai4 jian4, wrong.
    – sfy
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 19:13

1 Answer 1

5

When 监 is in the forth tone, it usually refers to a specific government department. For example 国子监 was the education department, 钦天监 was the calender department, 太监 was the department of 内务, i.e., affairs of the royal family. Then gradually people start to use 太监 to refer to the specific occupation, or people who belong to the department.

Then 's meaning as a government department is died out in modern Chinese, so people begin to map it to the ubiquitous jian1, which is technically wrong.

Also at least in Mandarin, there is a tendency that when a noun consists of two characters, the second character would be read as 轻声 or the "light tone", so what you normally hear is tai4jian0. There is also a tenancy that when a character is read as the light tone, people automatically thinks that it should be the first tone. This might also contributed to the shift from jian4 to jian1. But as NS said in the comments, it could probably be just my imagination...

jian1 might be technically wrong, but there are already enough people using it to make it an acceptable pronunciation, only that the dictionaries hasn't been updated yet.

As for you, if you are taking exams, use jian4 for now, otherwise use whatever you like.

3
  • Good answer but I think this is an over-statement: "when a character is read as the light tone, people automatically thinks that it should be the first tone". Think ~儿, ~子, etc. Actually most commonly used neutral tone suffixes are not originally 1st tone.
    – NS.X.
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 4:39
  • @NS.X. I think I was referring to the fact that many 入声字 are morphed into 1st tone in Mandarin, also I tend to think 入声 sounds most similar to 轻声, so there is a bit mess-up. Anyway, answer updated. Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 6:06
  • "Also at least in Mandarin, there is a tendency that when a noun consists of two characters, the second character would be read as 轻声 or the 'light tone' ": I don't agree with the tendency. There are much much more words that don't use the netural tone than word that use neutral tone. And neutral tone is not an option for some words, they can have totally different meanings with or withour neutral tone, e.g. 东西(dong1xi1 east and west) vs 东西(dong1xi0 something).
    – fefe
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 3:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.