So, I know a fair amount of Mandarin speaking people, and I notice that for some of them they do not pronounce the silent initials like:

'y'i 'y'ing 'y'in

however, my other Mandarin speaking friends actually do pronounce the initials.

I've read through my textbooks and it says they should be silent so I'm a bit confused here.

I am then assuming that for example that it is correct to pronounce 意思 is

"ee se"


"yee se"?

2 Answers 2


I am not sure if you meant the English or Chinese pronunciation of 'y'.

y, in Chinese, is just pronounced as 'ee'.

So, 意思 should be pronounced as 'yi4 si', like 'ee se' in English.


Pinyin is just a guide and cannot be taken literally. Most initials should be taken fairly straightforwardly though.

Y on the other hand shouldn’t.

If you look at the ipa for 意:


there is only an: i.

Y basically equals i.

Next look at the ipa for 因:


Again y basically equals i.

So, yi is easily said that the y is silent but if you take something where the final doesn’t start with i like 羊/阳/洋 ipa becomes:


It still maintains this i sounding initial.

  • My hearing is not the best. That said, I often seem to hear 因为 as 'yin wei' with the y pronounced as y like in 'yen', not 'in wei'. Sometimes, it seems to me, the w of wei is also pronounced in a kind of German way as 'v' 'yin vei'. But that might just be my bad hearing.
    – Pedroski
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 4:58
  • The ‘v’ is a pretty northern characteristic. Yen gives a /j/ sound which is close to the // I wrote above and more prominent in finals that don’t begin with an i. The double i seems to get merged into one for initials and finals.
    – Mou某
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 5:19
  • Yes. The 'y' is just a placeholder for 'i' to circumvent 'i' appearing as the first letter for a character. Technically for most of the times the consonant /j/ does not exist, but it can when the character is pronounced short (e.g. 眼's initial /i/ becomes consonant /j/ when pronounced short).
    – Garlic Xu
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 7:00

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