Epenthesis is a process that inserts a syllabic or non-syllabic segment within an existing string of segments. For example, it is common in casual speech for English speakers to insert a (p) in between [m] and [θ] when pronouncing "warmth" /morm(p)θ/. I am wondering if Mandarin has epenthetic sounds as well, and hopefully someone can give me some examples and reference.


I cannot think of any epenthesis (增音) examples in Mandarin, but it exists in some dialects of Chinese. Here are some examples in Beijing dialect, from this webpage: 教育部语言文字应用研究所 - 普通话语音和北京语音的界限.

1) 增加声母:

这儿 “儿” er-her
女儿 nǚ'er-nǚher (或变为nǚhuor)

2) 增加韵尾:

把水倒净 “把” bǎ-bǎi
闭上嘴 “闭” bì-bìn
枳棘 “棘” ji-jin
八下里(各方面) “下”xià-xiàn
告诉 “诉” su-song

3) 增加介音:

一般儿大(同样大) “般” bān-biān
动撼(动) “撼” han-huan(或更变hun)
凑合 “合” he-huo

I think the third case is close to what you are looking for (though it's a dialect but not Mandarin), where additional segments are inserted between initials and finals.

Relevant experiences

I've met many people who will possibly do a similar thing due to they find it hard to pronounce some particular words in a standard way. However, even they know they are inserting syllables, some of them still think that they are speaking Mandarin rather than a dialect. But who can tell? I have no idea how to clearly draw the line.

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