Written by Vivian老师 from GoEast Mandarin.
A basic introduction to 呀 (ya)
Chinese words are divided into many categories and can have several different usages at the same time.
呀 (ya), which we are going to cover here, can be an interjection, like 啊 (a), 喂 (wei), 诶 (ei). Such interjections can express emotions such as exclamation.
Read more articles about interjections.
Words can also be onomatopoeic; these are words that mimic a sound. For example, in English, you say ‘tik-tok’ to describe the sound of a clock. In Chinese, 咣 (guāng) 哗啦啦 (huā lā lā) and other words can simulate a sound, can make the language more specific, and create vivid imagery. 呀 (ya) can also be used like this.
Some characters are modal particles, such as 啊 (a). 呀 (ya) also falls into this category when influenced by the phonemes ‘a, o, e, i, and ü’.
So let’s learn this multi-functional word together!
The Chinese Character 呀 (ya)
呀 (ya) is a pictophonetic character divided into left and right parts. It consists of 口 (kǒu) 👄 and 牙 (yá) 🦷.
Source: Wiktionary – Animated Character project – VisualMandarin – Yellowbridge., CC BY 3.0.
口 (kǒu) means ‘mouth,’ which indicates that the sound relates to the mouth and is the ideographic part of 呀 (ya). The right side of 呀 (ya) reveals how the character should be pronounced based on 牙 (yá).
So when we say 呀 (ya) out loud, we need to open our mouths and show our teeth. Like this:
How is the Chinese Character 呀 (ya) used？
1. The onomatopoeia usage of 呀 (ya)
You may or may not be familiar with 呀 (ya) as onomatopoeia. This sound simulates the sound of friction and rotation and has the yā pronunciation.
If you go to an old house, you will hear the sound of friction and rotation of the door or the window when you open the door or a window.
You might say:
老房子的窗户呀的一声打开了。(lǎo fángzi de chuānghu yā de yì shēng dǎkāi le.) The window of the old house creaked open.
2. 呀 (ya) as an interjection
When 呀 (ya) is an interjection, it is read as “yā” to express exclamation.
When you suddenly hear that your good friend is going to get married, you may say:
呀！你要结婚了！真好！(yā！nǐ yào jiéhūn le！zhēn hǎo!) Oh! You’re getting married! Splendid!
3. 呀 (ya) as a modal particle
We pronounce 呀 (ya) with the 5th tone ‘ya’ when it is a modal particle. This is because the modal particle 啊 (a) is affected by the letters a, e, i, o, and ü of the previous word. Therefore, it is usually found at the end of a sentence.
If you want to invite your friends for dinner, you can say:
你们快来呀！我等你们！(nǐmen kuài lái ya！wǒ děng nǐmen!) Come on! I’ll wait for you!
Learn more about modal particles.
Another really common interjection in China is 啊呀！ā yā, a filler-phrase that means “Oh my!”
Okay! These are some uses of 呀 (ya). Have you learned them all?
This guide is written by Vivian老师 from GoEast Mandarin. GoEast is an online Chinese language school that combines online self-learning materials with live classes from professional Chinese teachers.
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