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So I know for certain words, such as 不对, the fourth tone changes, but I believe 不 may be a special case.

Some words such as 部队 seem uncomfortable to pronounce if I strictly follow 4th and 4th tones, but saying words such as 汉字, don't feel as uncomfortable.

Is there a general rule (or at least a general rule with a few exceptions), for pronouncing double fourth tone words?

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  • Nothing wrong with double 4th tones; they're indeed pronounced that way. 不 is one of the few special cases where tone-sandhi is applied. In every language there might be pronunciations that feels strange or uncomfortable to language learners.
    – NS.X.
    Sep 25, 2015 at 18:14

3 Answers 3

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Yes, 不 is a special case. Other consecutive fourth tone morphemes are all pronounced (事件, 现在, 俱乐部), unless the word formed itself is a special case where the tone of the last morpheme is neutralized (看见, 用处, 味道).

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Yes, they do feel uncomfortable to pronounce, but they are indeed pronounced two 4th tones.

Except the 不 case, in which it changes to 2nd + 4th.

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There is a general rule for tone 4, but it concerns sequences of length three rather than consecutive fourth tones. The rule is as follows:

For conversational speech, tone 4 becomes lower and flatter, but still slightly falling, akin to Cantonese tone 3, when put between tone 3 or 4 and tone 1 or 4.

Something similar occurs for tone 2: it becomes higher and changes its direction, approaching the tone 1 pitch contour, when put between tone 1 or 2 and any other full tone.

I give a bit more detail on this in a different answer.

This "sandhi" rule/phenomenon does not seem to be very well known among students and teachers of Chinese. I only learnt about it when looking at the Wikipedia reference.

Reference: wikipedia

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