Beijing Sounds – 北京的声儿 has been going since last October, but I just found out about it via an e-mail from occasional commenter Xiaolongnu (thanks!). It’s syz’s blog about learning the Beijing dialect of Chinese, and it won my heart immediately with its sidebarred “WARNING: Contains explicit use of singular they, gratuitous passive voice, and shamelessly split infinitives.” A recent post asks “Does the Beijing-R mean anything?” and presents a discussion of the famous -r that gets tacked on to just about everything in the dialect:
The general perception among outsiders is that it’s just a way of speaking. It doesn’t really mean anything. HOWEVER, my two experts for today’s post, one six and one sixty-ish, say it ain’t so. There are words you can say with or without the Beijing-R (commonly called érhuàyīn 儿化音 or érhuàyùn 儿化韵), but often the different pronunciations really mean something different.
His best example is: “tāng 汤 and tāngr 汤儿 simply refer to two different liquids. The former means broth/soup, while the latter is the liquid that comes with your non-soup dishes, something cooked out of the meat or vegetables that you might spoon onto your rice.” This is backed up by a quoted talk with the two “experts,” and best of all, like all material presented on the blog, it’s got an audio link so you can hear for yourself. Excellent idea and presentation!