-r endings, their pronunciation, and Pinyin spelling

cover of Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and OrthographyArrr! In recognition of International Talk Like a Beijinger Pirate Day, here are the rules for how to spell those -r endings in Hanyu Pinyin and how those endings affect the pronunciation of syllables. In many cases, it’s more complicated than just adding an -r sound at the end of the standard syllable.

This information is from Yin Binyong’s Chinese Romanization: Pronunciation and Orthography. The full section from this book is available in PDF form: r- Suffixed Syllables.

Written form Actual pronunciation
-ar (m?r, horse) -ar (m?r)
-air (gàir, lid) -ar (gàr)
-anr (pánr, plate) -ar (pár)
-aor (b?or, bundle) -aor (b?or)
-angr (g?ngr, jar) -ãr (gãr)
-or (mòr, dust) -or (mòr)
-our (hóur, monkey) -our (hóur)
-ongr (chóngr, insect) -õr (chõr)
-er (g?r, song) -er (g?r)
-eir (bèir, back) -er (bèr)
-enr (ménr, door) -er (mér)
-engr (d?ngr, lamp) -?r (d?r)
-ir* (zìr, Chinese character) -er (zèr)
-ir (m?r, rice) -ier (m?er)
-iar (xiár, box) -iar (xiár)
-ier (diér, saucer) -ier (diér)
-iaor (ni?or, bird) -iaor (ni?or)
-iur (qiúr, ball) -iour (qióur)
-ianr (di?nr, bit) -iar (di?r)
-iangr (qi?ngr, tune) -iãr (qiãr)
-inr (x?nr, core) -ier (x?er)
-ingr (língr, bell) -i?r (li?r)
-iongr (xióngr, bear) -iõr (xiõr)
-ur (tùr, rabbit) -ur (tùr)
-uar (hu?r, flower) -uar (hu?r)
-uor (huór, work) -uor (huór)
-uair (kuàir, piece) -uar (kuàr)
-uir (shu?r, water) -uer (shu?r)
-uanr (wánr, to play) -uar (wár)
-uangr (ku?ngr, basket) -uãr (kuãr)
-unr (lúnr, wheel) -uer (luér)
-ür (q?r, song) -üer (q?er)
-üer (juér, peg) -üer (juér)
-üanr (qu?nr, loop) -üar (qu?r)
-ünr (qúnr, skirt) -üer (quér)

Notes:

  • ã, õ, ? indicate nasalized a, o, e.
  • The -i marked with an asterisk indicates either of the apical vowels that follow zh, ch, sh, r and z, c, s.

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