Pronunciation ˈɜːrhwɑː

A phonological process found in some, mainly northern, varieties of Chinese and especially noticeable in the speech of Beijing. The process involves the addition of a suffix, written 儿 and pronounced ɻ, to the end of a morpheme. The addition of the suffix triggers various consonant deletions and vowel quality changes in the morpheme to which it is added. A brief account of these is given below.

  1. Final n and i are deleted
  2. final ŋ is deleted and the preceding vowel is nasalised
  3. Vowel changes: aɑ, eə, ɨə
  4. In syllables ending jɛn or ɥɛn the vowel is changed to ɑ

The original use of erhua seems to have been to form the diminutive of a noun. However, in Beijing especially it is so common that it now appears often to be just a marker that a word is a noun and can be used to distinguish a noun from a homophonous non-noun. An example: wǎn can be the adjective meaning “late” or the noun meaning “bowl”. Only the latter can undergo the erhua process turning up as wɑ̌ɻ.