There are two pronunciations for : piē and piě. As I understand, the pinyin for 撇嘴 is piě​zuǐ​. But then I see this example sentence on Pleco...

Pleco example sentence

Tā piēle piězuǐ.
His lips curled in a contemptuous smile (or a sneer).

I'm puzzled as to why the pinyin on the first 撇 is given as piē (1st tone) above. My understanding is that this is an example of verb reduplication, so the two 撇s are the same, in which case I would expect their pronunciation to be the same. So...

Question: Is the pinyin for 他撇了撇嘴 actually "tā piē le piězuǐ" (as given by Pleco)? And if so, why are the two 撇s pronounced differently?

  • I pronounce it as "tā piě le piězuǐ" in day to day usage.
    – dan
    May 20, 2021 at 3:39
  • Judging by the responses, it looks like this is an error. Someone should file a report to Pleco for them to fix it. May 20, 2021 at 15:57

1 Answer 1

  1. is pronounced as piē when it means 'to cast away' (as in 撇下兒女) or 'to scoop off' (as in 撇油). Note it is a verb in both cases.

  2. is pronounced as piě when it means 'left-downward stroke' (as a noun in 撇捺), 'to throw (horizontally)' (as in 撇磚頭), or 'to incline' (outwards, as in 八字腳向外撇). 撇嘴 literally means to incline the ends of the lips downwards, usually to express discontent; so it must be pronounced in the third tone.

  3. I suspect Pleco detected the first as a verb, then jumped to the conclusion it should be pronounced in the first tone. It failed to realise here is a detached verb and is collocated with . After tone sandhi 撇了撇嘴 should be pronounced like 3023.

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Reference: 余培英(2012)《多音字學習手冊》。北京:商務。

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