Not entirely sure, but a friend (mother tongue 普通话, originally from 沈阳(Shenyang)) recently pronounced 这 as ze4 or maybe zen4 when she said 今天天气这么好.

这 isn't such simple word I find, as it can be zhe4 or zhei4, but I was not aware of any other ways it could be pronounced. Is ze4 or (zen4?) a common alternative?

  • Just want to give a fun fact. Nobody's mother tongue is Mandarin in China. We learn Mandarin in primary school after we have learned the dialect, from our parents or grand parents, when we were very young. And because of this, most of people's mandarin pronunciation is slightly infulenced by their mother tongue. In this case, your friend just fused his 沈阳话 into his 普通话. Because it sounds like something a 东北人 would say. I also make this kind of mistake a lot. For example in my dialect 风 is fong. So most of the time when I speak in Mandarin, I say fong instead of "feng". – Archeosudoerus Jun 16 '16 at 18:48
up vote 1 down vote accepted

In the Shenyang speech, pronounce "zh" as "z", and "ch" as "c", "sh" as "s", "r" as "y" or "l".

For example, 人(ren) as "yin", 扔(reng) as "leng", etc..

But Shenyang speech is almost same as the official speech (普通话).

I know some friends from Shenyang, they take care to correct their speech, but they can't differentiate the real mistake, but just pronounce all the mistake in the reverse way --all "z" and "zh" as "zh", "c" and "ch" as "ch", and "s" and "sh" as "sh".

Since the area of China is huge, there are always local speeches in specify regions (and also local style of using characters and words). Shenyang and Beijing speeches are both very close to official choose --but seems little opposite style in differences, that Shenyang speech is a bit simpler and Beijing is complex, or vise versa maybe. (Refer to the history, Manchu people was moved from Shenyang to Beijing, so Shenyangs has more origin Manchu speeches).

When saying "这", Beijings is like to say "这儿"(zher4), and Shenyang people always pronounce "zei4". When saying "这个" in daily talk, we always likely to skip "个" and pronounce as "zhei4" (like the English "J"), like "这个人" can be speech as "zhei4ren2", and Shenyangs will pronounce it as "zei4yen2" as the local accent. When saying "这么"(zhe4me in official speech), Shenyangs will say "ze4me" (pronounce like the English "them"), "这么好" will pronounce as "ze4mehao3", and Beijings are like to skip the "e" in the soft character "么" and pronounce as "zhem4hao3".

  • Are there other accents/topolects apart from that of Shenyang where people might say ze4me in this sentence, instead of zhe4me? Could a someone from Beijing say it, for example? – goPlayerJuggler Jun 16 '16 at 12:19
  • @goPlayerJuggler Well, since the area of China is huge, there are always local speeches in specify regions (and also local style of using characters and words). Shenyang and Beijing speeches are both very close to official choose --but seems little opposite style in differences, that Shenyang speech is a bit simpler and Beijing is complex, or vise versa maybe. (Refer to the history, Manchu people was moved from Shenyang to Beijing, so Shenyangs has more origin speeches). – a_a Jun 16 '16 at 14:20
  • When saying "这", Beijings is like to say "这儿"(zher4), and Shenyang people always pronounce "zei4". When saying "这个" in daily talk, we always likely to skip "个" and pronounce as "zhei4" (like the English "J"), like "这个人" can be speech as "zhei4ren2", and Shenyangs will pronounce it as "zei4yen2" as the local accent. When saying "这么"(zhe4me in official speech), Shenyangs will say "ze4me" (pronounce like the English "them"), "这么好" will pronounce as "ze4mehao3", and Beijings are like to skip the "e" in the soft character "么" and pronounce as "zhem4hao3". – a_a Jun 16 '16 at 14:25

'zhe4' is the most formal pronunciation. 'zhei4', 'zen4', and 'zhen4' are informal and dialectal.

I grew up in Beijing and local people use these variants frequently. (In contrast, 'zhe4' is actually not often heard in informal speech in the region.) In particular, 'zhei4' is common when people use 这 as a pronoun by itself (e.g., 这位 (this person)、这边儿 (this way)), and 'zen4' and 'zhen4' (less common than 'zen4') appear exclusively in 这么. Compare 怎么 'zen3me'.

The pronunciation of 'ze4' is not heard in the Beijing dialect, but could appear in other dialects of Mandarin.

Related note: When used alone to indicate location, 这儿, 'zher4' in pinyin, sounds more like 'zhar4' in the Beijing dialect - that is about somewhere between jerk sans k and jar in Midwestern American English.

Fun note: In very, very native Beijing dialect, 这儿 is sometimes pronounced like 'zhar4-har'. It might not be completely intelligible to people who grew up in regions in China farther away from Beijing.

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