The Beijing accent

Popup Chinese
One of my favourite Chinese podcasts to listen to at the moment is Popup Chinese. Today I listed to an episode entitled The Beijing Accent and Standard Mandarin. The main point being made was that the 儿化 or ér-isation (putting at the end of certain words) did not automatically make it non-standard Mandarin (i.e. the Beijing accent).

They gave some examples to show that there are standard Mandarin words that do/can include the diminutive without making it specific to the Beijing accent. Some of these words include:

  • 那里 vs 那儿 (there)
  • 这里 vs 这儿 (here)
  • 哪里 vs 哪儿 (where)
  • 一点 vs 一点儿 (a bit)
  • 小孩 vs 小孩儿 (child)

They made the interesting claim that saying the non-ér-ised version in Beijing would actually make you sound quite effeminate (something for males to watch out for!).

They also provided some examples of ér-ised words that really do constitude ‘the Beijing accent’ that would be incorrect in the context of standard Mandarin:

  • vs 根儿 (classifier for long slender objects)
  • 告诉 vs 告儿 (to tell someone something)
  • vs 水儿 (water — more specific to Hebei than Beijing)

You wouldn’t hear these words on TV or other places where standard Mandarin is expected.

It’s hard to know how much of this is ‘universal truth’ and how much is the opinion of Beijingers, but at least good to be made aware that there are differences. Be sure to check out the lesson, including the interesting discussion in the comments section.


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