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I've noticed that for words like 饭馆 (fànguǎn), 一点 (yīdiǎn),and 玩 (wán) natives add 儿 (er) to the end while speaking.

A Wikipedia article about the character says that the phenomenon is called "r-coloring" and that it is dialectical for Beijing and other parts of Mainland China. My Mandarin teacher, who is a Beijing native, insists that we use it while speaking and writing.

Outside of Beijing (and my classroom), how commonly is it used? Should I use it in writing as well?

  • Very common nationwide. Should be used in writing. – user3306356 Sep 17 '17 at 21:42
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    I don't like it. to me it sounds like old country talking – Tang Ho Sep 17 '17 at 22:31
  • For some words, you must use it (like 一会儿). For some words, you must write it out (like 一会儿), for many others, we don't write it out. The two sets are not the same, though I used the same example. – fefe Sep 17 '17 at 23:55
  • Personally I don't think it should be used in writing, unless it's direct dialogue or quotes. – as4s4hetic Sep 18 '17 at 2:35
  • I think it depends on what you would write and the target of readers. it's not appropriate to use it in any writing of academic articles, serious news articles, other types of formal articles. But it could be applied in a story, lyrics, fictions, essays and other types of entertainment articles. – dan Sep 18 '17 at 3:43
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For the standard mandarin that is regulated by mainland China, the "r-coloring" is part of it. There is an official test for speaking mandarin, "r-coloring" is mentioned in its guideline(《普通话水平测试(PSC)大纲》) and must be tested:

2·2 读双音节词语50个。
目的:除考察应试人声母、韵母和声调的发音外,还要考察上声变调、儿化韵和轻声的读音。

2.2 Read 50 two syllable words. Tone sandhi, "r-colored" final, and neutral tone should be tested, aside from testing how well one pronounces each initial, final, and tone.

About when should one read or write as "r-colored", let me quote something form 《现代汉语词典》, which is explaining the notations within the dictionary:

6 书面上有时儿化有时不儿化,口语里必须儿化的词,自成条目,如:【今 】、【小孩 】。书面上一般不儿化,但口语里一般儿化的,在释义前加‘(~ )’,如【米粒】条。 ....

When a word is sometimes written with "儿" and sometimes not, but must be spoken as "r-colored", it would have its one entry, e.g. 【今 】、【小孩 】。When a word is usually not written with "儿", but usually spoken as "r-colored" in speech, ‘(~ )’ will be appended to explanation, e.g. 【米粒】

(Note, the dictionary used a small font for the above italic in the quote. I don't know how to type it here)

The dictionary's notation may be irrelevant here, but we can see there are words in standard mandarin that written “儿” is optional, or usually not written with "儿", but should be spoken as "r-colored". Examples are given in the quote. The written form and the spoken form sometimes do not match.

About how it is applied in real life, you should remember that most people in China do not speak standard mandarin (very well). The application of "r-colored" tones is quite regional and may differ a lot from place to place. Some people do not use them at all, and some use a lot. I think you should follow your teacher as when to use "r-colored" tones in speech.

As when to use it in writing, though the dictionary listed a lot of words as "sometimes written with 儿 and sometimes not", there is, in fact, a small set of words that are usually written with "儿". You can drop all "儿" in writing with words outside the set. I cannot list all words in the set. The most common one that usually written with "儿" might be "一会儿". You can follow your reading materials as when to "儿" in written form.

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  • Damn! Good one! – Kevman Sep 30 '17 at 4:27
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It's a regional thing I think. In the mainland, the standard mandarin does engage the "r-colouring". So, you will hear them from those broadcasts on TV, radio and other medias. It's not likely you would to hear them from shows of Taiwan and Hong Kong.

"R-colouring" is very common in north China. While you were travelling from North to South, the less it would be used.

Personally, I was born in north and now live in south. While speaking, I try to minimize the usage of 儿 in the place I live now, but still keep some of them, which I think it's necessary. I still say 一点儿, 玩儿, 去哪儿,在哪儿 and etc, because I think those 儿s take some effects. For example, I say 一点儿 meaning a bit and 一点 meaning a dot. I say 去哪儿 and 在哪儿,instead of 去哪里 and 在哪里, because 去哪儿 and 在哪儿 sounds brief and quick.

In written, it's ok you use "r-colouring" in your books and essays. In a serious TV news broadcast, I would suggest avoiding use "r-colouring" because it sounds a bit colloquial and folksy. Let's take those terms above as examples, in a very serious and formal writing, I would paraphrase: 一点儿 to 一些, 玩儿 to 玩耍/玩乐,在哪儿 to 在哪里,去哪儿 to 去哪里.

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  • It is explicitly mentioned in 《普通话水平测试(PSC)大纲》 wenku.baidu.com/view/a8cd882acfc789eb172dc8c8.html , and tested. It should be part of standard mandarin. – fefe Sep 18 '17 at 0:14
  • @fefe, yes, that's what I am saying "the standard mandarin does engage the "r-colouring". " – dan Sep 18 '17 at 0:35
  • but, folks from TWN and HK wouldn't use it, that's why I said it's a regional thing. – dan Sep 18 '17 at 0:43
  • Oh, my bad. I miss read the sentence. – fefe Sep 18 '17 at 1:12
  • And I agree that it is regional. – fefe Sep 18 '17 at 1:15
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Chinese mandarin, 普通话 is based on words from northern Chinese and pronunciations from Beijing dialect. Hence, some words are fixed with 儿化, and when you speak Chinese mandarin, you should pronounce -er (actually, the exact pronunciation may vary according to the last syllable).

It's even hard for native Chinese speakers, especially speakers used to southern chinese dialects, to tell which word should use er and which not. You do not have to concern over it too much unless you need to pass the 普通话水平测试 in order to get the certificate to be a TV host or a teacher. When I speak in mandarin, I only speak -er of these words familiar to me(very very few). For example, 一会儿 (it takes some time for me to come up with this word) 。

In other regions, at least in Sichuan, the local dialect (classified into northern dialect , despite Sichuan is in the southwest geographically ) contains a lot of -er ending. However, the applications are different and I feel it is used more than in Chinese mandarin. For example, 灯泡儿(light bulb), 指姆儿(finger ),滚滚儿(wheel), 栏杆儿(hand rail).

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There are many words in the central plains to the north, where there are many words and vowels that have been altered by the action of the tongue. This phenomenon is called the triage.The rhyming mother is called "rhymes," which is marked by an r behind the rhyme.The pronunciation of the children after the children is still a syllable, but it is usually written by two Chinese characters, such as Taro (yùr), the old man (lǎotóur), etc.The representative of the children's voice is Beijing dialect, followed by Tianjin dialect and Kaifeng.

The pronunciation of the children's pronunciation

The term "child" refers to a particular sound variation of the suffix "baby" and its previous syllable, which is made up of a syllable.The phenomenon of "consonant" in tone.To put it simply, it is to attach the roll action to the end of the syllable.

Refined classification:

the pronunciation characteristics of children

  1. a, o, e or the final vowels directly add the tongue action.For example: the children of the novel are not available.
  2. the end is not a, o, e, but with a, o, e, the finals, after losing the end of the rhyme in a, o, e, and the rolling action.For example, the name brand (ai) baby petals (an) children's (ong) children's (cheng) children's (beng) children's (tan) children's small stands (tan)
  3. zi, ci, si, zhi, chi, shi, the children after,[i]→ [ə];[ui]→ [uə] after [u].
  4. the birth mother and the final vowel I, in and ing of the tongue, when the syllables are formed, the end n, ng, I, ie, and the tongue movements are taken out. For example: baby chicks with baby chicks and baby feet

Tongues:

A consonant of the front of a tongue that is near or against the front of the door, the gingiva, and the hard palate.In putonghua speech, z, c, s, d, t, n, l, zh, ch, sh, r are all tongue tongues.There are z, c and s in the front of the tongue, and the tip of the tongue is d, t, n, l, and the tip of the tongue is zh, ch, sh and r.

  1. with u as the final vowels (u, iu, ou), with the addition of the rolling tongue (" daughter-in-law ", except for "daughter-in-law");After ellipsis (UI, UN, ueng), u, u, u, and then the tongue movement.For example: there is no such thing as a thief
  2. after u or ellipsis, u is the final vowels (UN), all u, ue, rewinding.For example: the little girl has interesting little fish and little fish
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  • I tried to improve the format of your answer, but I'm not sure if it shows the real structure. – fefe Sep 18 '17 at 2:18
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tl;dr In speech, use it or not -- either way is fine. In formal writing, best to avoid it.

Speech: It varies by region (even among the educated Mandarin speakers I hear on US college campuses). I know people from south and central China (Shanghai, Wuhan etc.) who never use the suffix 儿, even in words like 一点 哪里 玩. People from Beijing / NE China use 儿 quite liberally. In fact if you hear a lot of 儿 that's often a sign you're listening to a Beijing speaker.

The national standard is based on Beijing pronunciation, but standard Mandarin has much less 儿 than Beijing dialect. (Beijing people have a strong sense of local pride, and I think they often overlook the differences between Beijing dialect and standard Mandarin.) I don't think I've ever heard a news broadcaster say 饭馆儿, for example.

If I were you, I'd keep 儿 in the places where its use is very common: 有一点儿 哪儿 那儿 这儿 玩儿, but avoid it on nouns (饭馆儿 门儿 and so forth) unless I was in Beijing, or talking to people from Beijing.

Writing: Avoid the suffix 儿. It's probably comparable to English "wanna" in this regard: it's just not used in formal writing.

A side note: Another notable feature of Beijing / NE speech is the pronunciation of "-ing" (as in "ying xing jing ling ding"). It often comes out sounding something like "ieng". (Here I'm trying to use the "e" to represent the vowel in pinyin "ge".) This is also a regionalism, and if you travel to other parts of China you may want to pay attention to how locals make this sound. (In other parts of China "-ing" often ends up exactly the same as "-in".)

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  • An interesting point here. I am curious what "ieng" sounds like. And how do you differentiate these two sounds(ing, ieng) in your ear? It's really the first time I got this point. – dan Sep 19 '17 at 1:26

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