I heard that there are roughly 400 sounds in Mandarin plus four tones. Are all combinations of those used in Chinese vocabulary, making it 1600 possibilities per single-sound word? If not, how many such combinations are actually used in any piece of a word?
I wrote a program to search through an unofficial online version of 现代汉语词典. The results show 1345 possible combinations.
Here is a list of the 1345 sounds, each with one example Chinese character (not most representative or most frequently used).
Note that I also included the neutral tone (for example ba0:吧) and a few strange ones (e.g. hm:噷, hng:哼, m1:姆, m2:呣).
Using the above list, you can easily find some "missing" combinations, e.g. an2, ang3, ban2, bang2, bei2, ben2, bian2, biao2, bin2, bin3, bing2, ca2, ca4, cang3, cang4, ce1, ce2, ce3, ...
I use this one. But it show all combinations, including ones that aren't words. http://www.quickmandarin.com/chinesepinyintable/
ETA: It has tones, if you want to hear how they sound.
The following *nix command will get all the pinyin sounds from the CCCedict dictionary:
sed 's/#.*$//;/^$/d' cedict_1_0_ts_utf-8_mdbg_20220301_011354.txt | cut -d "[" -f2 | cut -d "]" -f1 | tr " " "\n" | tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]' | grep -e '' | grep -e '[aeiouv]' | sort | uniq -c | sort -bgr
- extracts all the strings in the "pinyin" column
- puts all the different syllables onto a single line for each
- puts everything to lower case
- removes everything that doesn't have a tone marking (neutral tones should have "5")
- removes everything that doesn't have a vowel
- counts and orders by most frequent
There are a few strange cases with "u:", namely lu:e4 and nu:e4, but that only appears twice in the results.
There are 1535 unique results on the date this is posted. We might think of this as a lower bound, at least for what the Cedict people think is possible. ~1500 is a LOT more than ~1300 though, so I'm not sure what is going on here. I notice a few like:
覅 覅 [fiao4] /contraction of 勿要/must not/please don't/
Which I guess are non-standard or dialectical.