What is the pronunciation of the vowel I in Pinyin si? /ɪ/, /ɘ/ or /ɨ/ ? Each website I read describe it differently.

Please answer using IPA symbols.

  • Does it so matter to find a "right" symbol for a sound? I described it as [z ̩] – 炸鱼薯条德里克 Sep 13 '19 at 23:17
  • 4
    None of those are correct. A character like 絲 is pronounced as /sz̩⁵⁵/; see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllabic_consonant#Syllabic_fricatives - although /ɨ/ is very close. – dROOOze Sep 13 '19 at 23:18
  • Syllabic z ([z̩]) is popular among non-Sinologists. Sinologists often use the non-standard symbol [ɿ]. It doesn't really matter--you can pronounce it either as a syllabic fricative or as an approximant in the same place as the syllabic fricative. – Stumpy Joe Pete Sep 13 '19 at 23:46
  • @StumpyJoePete : Why would you need a non-standard symbol? Does this suggest the IPA is, in fact, deficient in achieving its supposed mission? (Not at all closed to that possibility - many "standards" leave things to be desired and dogmatism masks room for improvement.) – The_Sympathizer Sep 22 '19 at 1:46
  • @The_Sympathizer IPA isn't perfect. It's my understanding that IPA only encodes differences that are contrastive in some language, but (a) that's not something you can know from 1st principles, it's empirical and (b) even if it's granular enough for that purpose, there are potentially more language-specific phonetic details than that (which might be helpful for sounding like a native speaker). – Stumpy Joe Pete Sep 22 '19 at 4:20

The closest is /ɨ/, at least in Taiwan where the accent is very free-flowing. In Beijing it's more like the /z/ in the comments above.

  • I guess you meant the [z̩] (syllabic Z), not [z]. – Alan Evangelista Sep 16 '19 at 3:54
  • Yep, just couldn't copy it on my phone for some reason. – Curiosity Sep 16 '19 at 4:50

There is actually no i sound in the syllable. You can pronounce it by [s] and make it longer. The ‘i’ is just a placer, like 0 in maths.


With z-,c-,s-,zh-,ch-,sh- ,it pronounces nothing, just initial consonant.

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