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Recently learned that 鼹 should be pronounced as the third tone "yǎn" from 现代汉语词典 and other similar dictionaries, as opposed to the fourth tone "yàn". The actual pronunciation of 鼹鼠 then becomes "yánshǔ". I do not think I ever heard of "yánshǔ" for 鼹鼠 but always "yànshǔ". I checked 普通话异读词审音表 and 普通话异读词审音表(修订稿)as cited by another post and did not find that character there.

Question: Does any native speaker share with my confusion and also pronounce 鼹鼠 as "yànshǔ"? And does any native speaker ever heard of "yánshǔ" (or yǎnshǔ) or even himself reads so? Note: this is not about what's the official/standard pronunciation of 鼹, which seems quite consistent, but about its use in practice from everyone's (particularly native speakers') personal experience.

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  • 鼹 is the simplified form of 鼴。I always pronounce it yǎn. I also searched google and found that baidu, zdic, 大辭海, 國語詞典, etc. all say that the pronunciation is yǎn. In fact, I didn't find any reference that says its pronunciation should be yàn.
    – joehua
    Mar 24 at 13:34
  • Regarding references, that's similar to my own findings, and that's not my question. My question is, regarding the pronunciation in practice. All my peers I checked so far (three) share the same experience as mine -- pronounce as the fourth tone and never heard of the third. And in this regard, I appreciate you shared your own pronunciation. Thanks.
    – fortyniner
    Mar 24 at 13:46
  • I'm a native speaker from mainland China. I've never heard anyone say "yánshǔ" (or yǎnshǔ). It's always yànshǔ.
    – Betty
    Mar 24 at 14:29
  • As a native speaker, I also agree with @Betty, it's always yànshǔ, and never heard anyone say the other two "yánshǔ" (or yǎnshǔ), but apparently, that is false if you want to say it correctly (but literally everyone uses the 4th tone). And in case you wonder why it's the second tone for yan, two repeated third tones make the first word carry a second tone
    – De Rien
    Mar 24 at 16:46
  • A few YouTube examples of Mandarin yànshǔ: Uncle Science Rocket, 猩猩打字机, 張育誠 {has both pron.}. From Middle Chinese, yǎn is regular, agreeing with Cantonese, which has tone 2.
    – Michaelyus
    Mar 24 at 17:51

3 Answers 3

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Native Mandarin speaker from Northeastern China here and I do not think I have ever heard 鼹 pronounced as yán or yǎn at all, only yàn. Two answers from this similar question on Zhihu also reveals the prevalence of such pronunciation. Actually only when I saw this question just now did I reclaim a vague memory of the correct Mandarin pronunciation of 鼹.

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  • I wonder what could be the phonetical evidence behind the standarisation, though. Anyways, as it is put, a language is a dialect with an army and navy.
    – SuibianP
    Apr 25 at 13:09
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This is not really an answer, but it doesn't really belong in the comments either.


《规范》has a footnote on 鼹 that states:

注意 不读yàn。

The fact that they have to specifically denote that the character isn't read in a fourth tone shows that this must be a common misconception. This is sometimes the case with old, retired, readings, but it could have arisen from somewhere else too.

Most likely it is just an assumption from the reading of: 妟.

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  • Not sure what your 《规范》refers to. If you meant 《现代汉语规范词典》 or 《现代汉语规范字典》, then lots of characters/words have such footnotes; most of such footnotes are related to the change from old pronunciation to new pronunciation, some related to 文读/白读,some related to genuine common mispronunciation. The specialty of this case is that NOT a single native speaker from mainland China I've checked, including two comments below the question stated explicitly, two youtube videos given by another comment, and my other peers, that actually pronounced it as "yán/yǎn"; always "yàn".
    – fortyniner
    Mar 24 at 21:06
  • I am still curious how you yourself pronounce the character, and if you do mind disclosing, whether you are a native speaker from mainland China, and if you consider a native speaker but not grew up in mainland China, then where. This would help me understand how native speakers actually pronounce the character, not about what they think the character should be pronounced.
    – fortyniner
    Mar 24 at 21:07
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Actually, I myself pronounce it as yan3shu3 (or yan2shu3), because in primary school our teacher taught us this pronunciation. Frankly speaking, there exists people who pronounce it as yan4shu3, but it rarely influences the rest of us. (China is a country full of accents and dialects, so most of us may accept others' pronunciation, whatever it is🤣) Btw, the word 鼹鼠 is used seemingly less commonly in recent years, maybe because of the increasing urban population. I myself don't know what a 鼹鼠 looks like.

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