I'm usually confused with the light tone thing. Here I have the word 曲子 which according to the Internet should be pronounced as qǔzi. However, I have heard some people pronounce it as qū (1st tone) zǐ (3rd tone) and also qú (2nd tone) zǐ (3rd tone). So I'm not sure which way I should pronounce for this word. How do you guys usually pronounce it?

Oh btw, I realize that it might be the same case with 椅子 (yǐ zǐ) which I often hear is pronounced as yí (2nd tone) zǐ (3rd tone). So I usually follow the one I hear more often. Could 曲子 pronunciation be the same case as this?

  • 4
    As a native Mandarin speaker from mainland China I have only heard of qu3zi and yi3zi. Whom do you hear the qu1zi3 and qu2zi3 pronunciations from?
    – Garlic Xu
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 13:17
  • I'm currently staying in Malaysia. Heard from people speaking around me.
    – Nephilim
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 22:58
  • Due to their lack of the "light" tone (轻声), native speakers of Hokkien Chinese or Cantonese may pronounce 子 as its original 3rd tone when they speak Mandarin, e.g. 车子(should be che1zi) as che1zi3. Though considered "dialects" of Chinese, they are essentially separate languages from Mandarin, because they are largely unintelligible, and Mandarin serves just as a lingua franca that unites the Chinese people from different dialect regions. In this case, there is tonal sandhi occurring to 椅 (and possibly 曲), as they become 2nd tone before another character in 3rd tone.
    – Garlic Xu
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 5:45

3 Answers 3


Malaysian Mandarin

Malaysian Mandarin's phonology is closer to that of Taiwanese Mandarin than towards the Beijing pronunciation, due to the influence of other dialects such as Cantonese and Hokkien.

Malaysian Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 马来西亚华语; traditional Chinese: 馬來西亞華語; pinyin: Mǎláixīyà Huáyǔ) is a variety of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Malaysia by ethnic Chinese in Malaysia. Malaysian Chinese tend to perceive the Mandarin Chinese is a variation of Standard Mandarin (Putonghua); however, it is a Mandarin dialect in its own right. Its closest linguistic cousin is not Standard Mandarin, rather it is Singaporean Mandarin, the variety widely used in films like Tiger Woohoo 大日子(2010), Namewee's Nasi Lemak 2.0 and movies created by Singaporean movie director Jack Neo.

A quick detour

Phonology and tones (Singaporean Mandarin):

The character 息 is pronounced with the 2nd tone in Standard Singaporean Mandarin, similar to that in Taiwan. In Mainland China, 息 is pronounced as a light (neutral) tone (simplified Chinese: 轻声; traditional Chinese: 輕聲; pinyin: qīng shēng) instead.


Taiwan pr. [qu2]

It's Malaysian Mandarin for sure.

  • I think we've had quite a few questions like this now: "Pinyin says its this but I've heard that", and the answer is "it's regional". Is there a more efficient way of answering these questions?
    – dROOOze
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 4:46
  • @droooze Might as well make that meta question, but I think it's going to be hard to tackle, there's such a lack of digitized resources & the ones that are available are often hard to query. Just look how roundabout this answer is.
    – Mou某
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 5:54
  • Actually seem a form of tonal sandhi en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tone_sandhi Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 7:52
  • @DavideCastronovo Seems unlikely, 子 should be pronounced with a neutral tone. 曲 it seems would also be pronounced qú alone as a single character in TW/Singapore/Malaysia.
    – Mou某
    Commented Aug 9, 2019 at 9:16

曲子(qu3zi) should be the only pronunciation. Here 曲 means a song or a drama.
曲 pronounce as 1st tone has different meaning, like 曲折(tortuous, winding) or 曲解(misinterpret), means not straight, curve or bend.


In that case seem a tonal sandhi here wiki explanation

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