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井井有条​ (to be neat and tidy) we have a sequence of the third tones. Why is it pronounced as

jing2 jing2 you3 tiao2

and not

jing2 jing3 you3 tiao2

After all, the first half goes together, and the second half goes together.

How can we generalize the (3, 3) |-> (2, 3) tone change rule to words greater than two characters?

Could we have three or four tone changes in a line of characters?

Is the rule that if we have N third consecutive tones, then the first N-1 change to second tones?

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  • 1
    last answered 2 months ago: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/19574/…
    – user6065
    Oct 9 '16 at 1:58
  • Please, what would be the rule for what Wenlin dictionary is calling " Fixed Expression " ? How apply what you wrote : " It depends on how you seperate the words, to determine which rule should be applied. " The fixed expression used in a sentence shouln't be pronunced regardless of the said sentence ? How pronunce " 小打小闹 " in 我的一点成就 不过是小打小闹 ?
    – faure
    Aug 25 at 9:37
12

The rule about the 3rd tone sandhi is:

  1. When word with the 3rd tone is used alone, or used at the end of the expression, it's pronounced as the original tone, i.e. the 3rd tone. e.g. , 滑雪.
  2. When two words with the 3rd tone are used together, the 1st one is pronounced as the 2nd tone. e.g. 老虎, 海岛.
  3. When word with the 3rd tone is used before other words with the 1st/2nd/4th tone, it's pronounced as the 半三声 (only the first half of the 3rd tone, without the rising tone part). e.g. 卡车, 草莓.
  4. When three words with the 3rd tone are used together;
    1. If the first two words are closely linked, i.e. 2+1 construction, then the first two words are pronounced as the 2nd tone. e.g. 草稿纸, 古典美.
    2. If the last two words are closely linked, i.e. 1+2 construction, then the 1st word is pronounced as 半三声, the 2nd word is pronounced as the 2nd tone. e.g. 米老鼠, 老领导.

井井有条 matches the rule 4.1 and 3, so it should be pronounced as 2-2-(半三声)-2.

Is the rule that if we have N third consecutive tones, then the first N-1 change to second tones?

It depends on how you seperate the words, to determine which rule should be applied.

Reference:
第三声变调教学教学
第三声(上声)的变调
现代汉语中三个三声连在一起,该怎么变调?

3
  • Ok, so it depends on how you separate the words. Thanks. Oct 10 '16 at 12:45
  • 1
    Simply and perfectly explained! +1 Oct 10 '16 at 14:19
  • @JackMaddington Yes, it means the actual tone will change according to the context. It might be not easy for nonnative, because we don't have a simple rule like all the first N-1 words will become 2nd tone. Good luck. :)
    – user4072
    Oct 10 '16 at 14:35
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(This was originally a part of my answer on another question concerning tone sandhi AND neutral tones. I feel my explanation below on just tone sandhi befits here more. Consider this a slight extension to the accepted answer.)

The pronunciation of words consisting of more than two adjacent third-tone characters depends on correct parsing.

E.g. 1 老/總統 333 > 323 (an old president): there is no need for 老 to change its tone because what is next to it (總) is already pronounced in the second tone.

E.g. 2 展覽/館 333 > 223 (exhibition hall): the first 3 > 2 change in 展 is considered fixed within the word 展覽; the second 3 > 2 change in 覽 is the result of immediate placement next to another separate third-tone character, 館.

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