According to Wiedenhof's A Grammar of Mandarin, page 44,

"Weng" syllables rhyme with the fnal -ong [ʊŋ]

However, he'd specified weng as [wʌŋ], to add

Weng displays the same type of variation as the fnal -un: it may lose its rounding toward the end, [wəŋ].

Page 66 reads

there's free variation between [wʌŋ] and [ʊŋ] for both fnals, with complementary distribution

Can somebody please clarify the apparent ambiguities?

In the second paragraph, what does end refer to?

2 Answers 2


In the second paragraph, what does end refer to?

When I speak, I tends to do something like this /wʊ-ɤŋ/. I have never noticed this behavior before. For the word 老翁 (old man), if you say it either way: /lɑʊ.wʊŋ/, /lɑʊ.wəŋ/, /lɑʊ.wɤŋ/, /lɑʊ.wʊəŋ/, etc, they are all interpreted as the same word, thus "free variations". This depends on the individual accent.

I have never studied rhymes seriously before, so if your book says "weng" rhymes with "tong", then they must be using the /wʊŋ/ way of speaking. For example: 通風 (air circulation) may be pronounced as /tʊŋ.fʊŋ/ or /tʊŋ.fɤŋ/, but never as /tɤŋ.fɤŋ/. I personally say /tʊŋ.fɤŋ/.

As for your last quote, I don't understand how the free variation has complementary distribution.


ong, to me, a Chinese, is more like o+eng (but pronounced fast so that it sounds like a single vowel ong), which rhymes with eng of course. There is another explanation that sometimes Mandarin spoken in other places of China (Guangdong etc.) differs from the "real" mandarin, so that in those places, eng and ong are not differentiated. By the way, I think eng is more like [ɘŋ], depending on how I say that vowel every day. I sorry that I cannot answer your second question, as I haven't read the book. I'm not a Chinese linguist, but I hope this solved your issue.

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