The initial 'y' is spoken like the
initial 'i' in 'India', followed by a 'y' as in 'yes', when it comes before the
vowel 'e' or 'a' (but not 'ao' and not 'ang'). It is spoken like the initial
'y' in 'yes', when it comes before the vowel 'o' and 'u', before the double
vovels 'ao', 'ou', and 'ue', and before 'ang'. When 'y' comes before the vowel
'i', the combination 'yi' is spoken as just one vowel, the 'i' in 'India',
regardless of what follows the 'yi'. After the initial 'y', an 'u' is always
spoken like the German umlaut 'ue'. When 'e' follows 'yu', a German umlaut 'ue'
is spoken, and after that, a 'e' as in 'yes'.
When just the vowel 'a' follows an
initial 'y' the 'a' is spoken like the 'a' in 'bar'. However, when a 'n'
follows 'ya', the 'a' is spoken like the 'e' in 'Ben'.
But when a 'g' follows the 'yan', forming
'yang', the pronunciation of the 'a' reverts back to that of 'a' in 'bar'.
So, Pinyin looks so easy, but can be
While speaking the initial 'y' like the
vowel 'i', followed by a slight 'y', instead just the consonant 'y' may seem to
be an additional exception that must be learned and makes Chinese again more
difficult, it makes it in fact easier to speak the tones correctly. The reason
for this assessment is that for dual vowels, one just has to remember stress,
not tone, and the tones will come out quite well. In the first tone, the two
vowels in the 'iye' sound combination are pronounced with equal stress. In the
second tone, there is a strong stress on the second vowel. In the third tone,
the stress is equal, but before a first, second, and fourth tone, only half a
third tone is spoken, and then, the stress is on the first syllable. And in the
fourth tone, there is a strong stress on the first syllable.