Is 等等 pronounced:
deng2deng0 (2nd tone and neutral) like 老子、孔子
deng3 deng0 (3rd tone and neutral) like 椅子、法子
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This is a difficult problem to address, because 等等 apparently fits one of the criteria for neutral tone, but at the same time there is tone sandhi for two conjoint third-tone words. The following attempts to resolve the conflict between the two rules:
The pronunciation of
In my explanation below, I use
4 to indicate the first to fourth tones respectively,
0 to indicate the fifth or neutral tone,
X > Y to indicate an alteration in tone from pattern
Y, and tone letters
˩ ˨ ˧ ˦ ˥, five-levelled, arranged from lowest to highest here, to describe the pitch change within a particular tone.
If the second third-tone character is justified to be pronounced in the neutral tone, then the first third-tone character remains pronounced in the third-tone, i.e.
33 > 30. Justifications for neutral tone may be of one of the following types:
dǎ dianmeans to organise things or to get ready, but
dǎ diǎn > dá diǎnliterally means the clock strikes a certain time. In general, figurative meanings are marked by a neutral tone, but not so in literal meanings.
33 > 31instead of
33 > 30).
33 > 23despite apparently fitting the listed criteria for neutral tone)
niǎo niǎo, 緊緊, 等等: reduplicated words that are adverbial or adjectival.
gǔ gǔ: reduplicated words that are onomatopoeic.
xīn lǐ > xīn li, 海上
hǎi shàng > hǎi shang). However, it seems more natural to pronounce
33～裏 words as
33 > 23 words are pronounced like
33 > 23 > 20 is a dangerous metaphor. That is because the second third-tone is not toneless (
0) per se (unless it is well justified, as in 1.; 等等 is not). Besides, this analogy complicates things. At most, we can only say the 'tail' of the pitch
˨ ˩ ˦ in the third tone is discarded, becoming
˨ ˩, and that is not limited to conjoint third-tone words. Even a word as simple as 我
wǒ ˨ ˩ ˦ > ˨ ˩ can behave like that in a spoken sentence.
A simple explanation of the pitch of the neutral tone is given by the syllabus of Putonghua Proficiency Test (普通話水平測試實施綱要) (p. 35):
When the neutral tone follows the third tone, it takes on a slightly higher pitch. (The pitch of the third tone is low enough; one then raises the pitch of the neutral tone that follows to differentiate between the two.)
This is in contrast to the neutral tone's taking on a slightly lower pitch when it follows the first (e.g. 媽媽), second (e.g. 玩啊), or fourth tone (e.g. 去吧).