On a CCTV 9 show shot in Shanghai, a couple of people who were certainly speaking Putonghua have made comparisons and if I heard right they were pronouncing 比较 as "biao." Am I wrong? Is that a common contraction? Is it typical of Shanghai?


When someone is speaking fast, or speaking casually, bijiao may become something like biao. The i in bi and j in jiao are pronounced too weak to be heard. The first initial b and the last final iao are left to form a biao. However, this newly formed biao is definitely different form the single syllable biao. I'm not a linguist and cannot describe this difference in detail.

I don't know in which area this usually happens. Native Chinese can "correct" this pronunciation variation automatically and may not even notice this.

This kind of weakening of sounds happens in every language. In Chinese, it may happen in a syllable or in a word, or even among a phrase. Usually, this kind of weakened syllables are auxiliary words which help construct the sentence.

There is coarticulation which means that adjacent syllables would affect the pronunciation of each other, and they all sound differently from when they are pronounced alone.

An interesting result of this is that if you cut out a single syllable from a spontaneous sentence, there is high probability that even natives cannot figure out what it is, although they would have no problem understanding the full sentence.

  • This is an excellent answer! For this specific word, my impression is people from Northern China has a greater tendency to run the 2 characters together.
    – NS.X.
    Dec 7 '12 at 7:25
  • You are right that what these people said was distinctly more than one syllable, even though the i and j were weak. This reminds me once again to distinguish a compound vowel from a disyllable. Xi'an is not xian. Thanks. Dec 7 '12 at 16:48
  • 1
    I usually call this phenomenon 'elision'. Feb 2 '13 at 21:21

比较 pronounces 'bǐ jiào' in Putonghua not 'biao (表)' , I'm not from Shanghai I don't know if it's the same in their dialect, ‘biao' sounds like they were speaking Taiwan dialect or they just intended to speak in a nauseating way.

  • It was not Wu dialect and the people were not trying to be nauseating. It is either a colloquial elision, or my faulty hearing. Dec 6 '12 at 22:49
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    probably faulty hearing. it can be 不要(bu2 yao4)。比较 also can be pronounced as 'bi3 jiao3' depends it's the meaning of comparison or the meaning of fairly Dec 7 '12 at 0:31
  • Could be. But are you saying this based on familiarity with actual Shanghai pronunciation? When someone is saying one book is larger than another, I think they would say 比较大 and not 不要大. Dec 7 '12 at 2:00
  • @user2223 Although the vowel portion of jiao4 is slightly different in Wu, the consonant portion is still a voiced alveolo-palatal affricate - identical to the pronunciation in Mandarin. I am not aware of any possible elision between an affricate and a preceding vowel. That'd just be weird. So either you misheard it or the person used a different word. Dec 7 '12 at 3:51
  • 2
    what does this have to do with Taiwanese?
    – simon
    Dec 11 '12 at 18:17

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