Accent pop quiz:

You go to one of the many offices at your school or workplace. These are offices that deal in official business. Administration type stuff.

The nice but somewhat overly energetic woman behind the counter makes demands regarding an item referred to as “fuzao” (IPA: /fuˈʦɑʊ/)* which she’s expecting you to produce.

1. What is it she’s asking for?
2. Where is she from?

Answers in the comments, please.

– – –
* It might have also been /ɸ/ in place of /f/, though in this case it was pretty clearly labiodental and not bilabial.
edit: I changed some of the IPA for readability purposes after initial publication of this post, dropping a bar and using in a ligature for /ts/. I know it’s non-standard. We do that around here from time to time.

14 responses to “fuˈʦɑʊ”

  1. dlszho says:

    1. Passport?
    2. Ningbo? Wenzhou?

  2. rmayo says:

    1 passport
    2 Hunan?

  3. shan says:

    1. passport?
    2. jiangsu? 江北?

  4. peiyikai says:

    1. She’s asking for your passport (护照 hùzhào).
    2. The person I know who talks like this is from 湖南 Hunan (which she pronounces “Fulan”).

  5. Karan says:

    护照 and as for from where, 湖南.

  6. Aaron says:

    1. Passport
    2. People tend to mix f and h here in Sichuan, so that’s my guess, though it appears that happens in other places too…

  7. Robert Delfs says:

    Passport, of course; she could be from anywhere from Sichuan to Fujian/Taiwan.

  8. Kellen Parker says:

    1. Right, passport. Easy enough.

    2. The /h/ → /ɸ/ is a Southern Mandarin thing, which everyone seemed to agree on. Shan and dlszho guessed Jiangnan, which I think (but correct me if this wasn’t it) is based on the zh→z change.

    The actual answer for location is that she is from Shanghai. It was the first time I’d heard a 上海宁 say /h/ as /f/ in normal speech, though the rest of the word was said exactly as any local would say it. In fact every other aspect of her speech was completely consistent with being a Shanghai native. If it wasn’t for that, I might think the zh→z was some hypercorrection along the lines of 粽子 and 九寨沟 where that change is often done by non-Wu speakers.

  9. dlszho says:

    Definitely wouldn’t have guessed Shanghai.

    Actually, I had very little idea about the /h/ to /f/ or /ɸ/ thing.

    I also thought Minnan, since a lot of (older) people speaking Minnanese confuse /f/ and /h/ in Mandarin (I don’t think there’s /f/ in Minnan).

  10. Tim says:

    Back when I studied in Shanghai, when I bought lotto tickets, the lady there consistently called it “laofu” for 老虎, going so far as to even say “hu” was wrong.

  11. Lina says:

    SH was my first guess — heard this all the time, as my BFF’s name was 荷花.

  12. Kellen Parker says:

    Given my history, Shanghai is a safe guess. I know it’s probably obvious in this context, but how was 荷花 pronounced by your BFF?

  13. Bruce says:

    “Passport, of course; she could be from anywhere from Sichuan to Fujian/Taiwan.” (Robert Delfs)

    Delfs is quite correct. To make a better-educated guess, we’d have to know how “heavy” the “f” sound was. The Hunan “f” is heavier than that in Hubei, for instance.

    I’ll never forget the old Minnan fellow in Banqiao outside Taipei who asked me:

    “Ni zemmo hui jiang fayu?”

    I DO speak French, but found it strange that he knew so. Only later did I realize that he meant 华语…

  14. Kellen Parker says:

    Bruce: Absolutely right on the heaviness of /f/, though in this case she was from Shanghai, which at least in my experience is a bit of an anomaly. Nanjing has plenty of F化音 though and I know plenty of people who’ve taken on bits of other regional accents, though in this case the woman was a bit old to have done that.

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