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Tone Perfect: Multimodal Database for Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language: The same sound can hold entirely different meanings depending on the tone used to pronounce it, a fundamental difference from how intonation is used in English.

For example, in Mandarin the sound "ma" (English sound equivalent) can mean "mother," "hemp," "horse," or "scold" depending on the tonal inflection used. However, not all sounds carry an actual meaning in each of the four tones. Those without any meaning are referred to as "lexical gaps." This collection includes spoken examples of these lexical gaps (a total of 2,382 samples).

The Tone Perfect collection includes the full catalog of monosyllabic sounds in Mandarin Chinese (410 in total) in all four tones (410 x 4 = 1,640). Spoken by six native Mandarin speakers (three female and three male), the collection is comprised of 9,840 audio files (6 sets of 1,640).

Browse through the collection, experience the sounds, and sharpen your tonal perception! You can learn more about what sounds exist in Mandarin by exploring the Mandarin Sound Table.

mā by Female Voice 1

ma1 / mā / 媽 / 妈 / "mother"

"High level tone"

má by Female Voice 2

ma2 / má / 麻 / 麻 / "hemp"

"Rising tone"

mǎ by Male Voice 3

ma3 / mǎ / 馬 / 马 / "horse"

"Dipping tone"

mà by Male Voice 2

ma4 / mà / 罵 / 骂 / "scold"

"Falling tone"

Learn More about Tone Perfect

Watch these video overviews for an introduction to Tone Perfect.


  • Recipient of the Open Scholarship Award (2019), for open scholarship carried out by scholars, librarians, citizen scholars, research professionals, and administrators. Award sponsored by the Canadian Social Knowledge Institute and its partners.
  • Recipient of the 2018 Esperanto "Access to Language Education” Award, presented by CALICO, the Esperantic Studies Foundation, and Lernu.net.