Are there any words in Chinese of 2 more syllables where there isn't a glottal stop between the syllables such that each syllable is not pronounced clearly, that a final consonant and initial consonant could be analyzed as a consonant cluster? I'm asking this question mostly in reference to Chinese languages descended from Middle Chinese, but wouldn't mind knowing about Min Chinese, or Chinese languages that diverged even earlier, like Waxiang.

  • I've previously asked this question: chinese.stackexchange.com/q/22363/4136 which talks about something that is known as 连读 in layman's terms. It seems to be a feature of Northern topolects. The words 意思 and 认识 seem to be two examples that I remember very clearly.
    – Mou某
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 15:24
  • That's not quite what I'm asking. I'm not talking about 认识=rèn shí⇨rènsh in Mandarin or 唔係=m̖ ha̱i⇨咪=ma̗i in Cantonese, but a multisyllabic word without a glottal stop between syllables. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 0:25
  • The term I'm looking for might be "disyllable" Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 2:20
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    I still believe that the phenomenon that I described fits what you were asking. The examples of 意思 and 认识 are not akin to examples like 不要 ---> 嫑 or 不用 ---> 甭, which are known as 合音, but rather it is more of an ending neutral tone with 连读 features.
    – Mou某
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 12:58
  • No, you did not answer what I was looking for. I was asking for a word like 'lizard' or 'chicken' in English that does not have a glottal stop in the middle, but in a Chinese language. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


I think this question should be "Are there any multi-syllabic words in Chinese with a glottal stop?"

In common speech, (almost) no words have an actual glottal stop in there, whereas the sound is the one identified by the IPA symbol /ʔ/ and defined as:

a type of consonantal sound [...] produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract [...].

Typical poly-syllable words aren't pronounced with such an airflow obstruction, because the sounds are distinct enough. This is the case of encounters of:

  • vowel+consonant (肌肉,主张)
  • consonant+consonant (晚饭,面条)
  • vowel or velar nasal (the ng sound /ŋ/) + semivowel (the approximants /w/), as in (储物,掌握), where, even if the sounds do blend to a certain degree, they are still distinct enough.

The only case where you do have an almost mandatory glottal stop /ʔ/ in speech is nasal (/ŋ/ or /n/) + vowel. Why? Because syllables with nasal initial in Mandarin are valid: nao, nan, nen etc. In these cases the glottal stop is needed to properly signal to the listener which syllable we are pronouncing. This is also the reason why in pinyin it is used an apex (apostrophe) sign.

For example 晚安 in pinyin is wan'an and in IPA /wanʔan/, otherwise you could simply confuse it with wa+nan. That there's no common word with this very pinyin is irrelevant. Other fairly common examples are 感恩 gan'en (/kanʔen/) and 深奥 shen'ao (/ʃɜnʔaɔ/)

The vowel+vowel case (对岸,马鞍, 骄傲) doesn't require mandatory glottal stop (even though you definitely can add one) because the encounter of vowels can't be mistaken for a valid syllable, where nasal+vowel can.

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    "Without syllables distinctly separated" might have been closer to what I meant. Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 2:56

Theoretically, no; colloquially, yes.
Glottal stop appears before a syllable "without consonant", like 棉袄 (mián'ǎo, [mjɛnʔau], "cotton coat"). This applies to all such syllables. However, in daily spoken language, emphasis on glottal stops is quite unnatural, so a possible implementation may be [mjɛ̃ːau].

Reference: 現代標準漢語音系


There are some old multisyllabic morphemes already present in Middle Chinese, including 蝴蝶 and 玻璃.

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    蝴蝶: Middle Chinese *ɦuo dep (first syllable unstressed), from Old Chinese *ɡaː l'eːb, derived from a proto-form of *kʰleːp ~ *ɦleːp, a prefixed form of the root *lep (“butterfly”). [So it's hypothesised to be a monosyllabic (glottal stop-less) morpheme at first] 玻璃: from Pali phalika (“crystal”), from Sanskrit स्फटिक (sphaṭika). [The (gottal stop-less) loan word is multisyllabic itself]
    – L Parker
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 23:52
  • But both 蝴蝶 and 玻璃 are pronounced with a glottal stop? Commented May 29, 2021 at 20:07
  • There is no glottal stop in either of them. In Mandarin: húdié and bōli.
    – eaglebrain
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 20:24
  • In a comment on the original post: "I was asking for a word like 'lizard' or 'chicken' in English". The syllables in "bōli" are no more separate than the syllables in "chicken". (If anything, the syllables of "chicken" are more separate, because the velar stop means that there will be a brief moment of silence.)
    – eaglebrain
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 20:29

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