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zì fù
n. (phonetics) the principal vowel in a compound vowel of a Chinese syllable (same as 韵腹)
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This is a terminology in Chinese Phonetics. For example, in the word 中国, we can find two syllables: zhōng and guó. Each of these two syllables has a compound vowel: they are respectively ōng and uó. The principal vowels (a.k.a. 韵腹 in Chinese) of these two compound vowels are the same: o. When we write the tone of Pinyin, the tone mark always appears on the principal vowel of a compound vowel.
In the Chinese language, characters (字) and syllables corresponding in most cases (except for cases like “花儿 huār”, two characters but only one syllable), therefore 韵腹 is also called 字腹.
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