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In a book about introductory Mandarin Chinese written in Japanese, one of the first sections lists some special characteristics of Mandarin not familiar to Japanese speakers (e.g. usually only one reading of kanji, no distinctive male/female language, etc). One of the sections is written below:

2字熟語

2音節、つまり2字熟語が多いというのが中国語の特徴です。2音節は音のすわりがいいと好まれる傾向があるのです。

The first sentence seems to be saying that words in Mandarin are commonly formed from two syllables, and thus two kanji (what is strange is that it's mentioned, since two-kanji words are common in Japanese too). The second sentence's "すわりがいい" is preventing me from figuring out the meaning, though.

TL;DR: what does "すわりがいい" mean?

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  • See #2 in dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/120691/m0u/…
    – Kimball
    Mar 13, 2015 at 17:25
  • Interesting - I'll ask the same question I asked below though, how can syllable sounds have a sense of 落ちつきぐあい or 安定?
    – Hikonyan
    Mar 13, 2015 at 20:20
  • Normally you can think of すわりがいい as 'fitting well', does this make more sense for you?
    – dinogeist
    Mar 13, 2015 at 22:05
  • Took a Mandarin dic. file, took all 2-character compounds (total: 24,558) and counted how often a syllable appeared in 1st/2nd place. The most common syllables in 2nd place (ratio 2nd/1st=5..26): de5, zhe5, zhe3, qi5, tui3, nan4, ran2, se4, kuan3, liao4, ceng2, lang3. If I weigh each syllable by the frequency of the words for which they are used, the most common ones are: zhe3, qie3, xie1, ge5, gei3, gai1, zhe5, zei2, run4, liao4, zai3, liang4, zhai2, tui3. Also there are some that appear only in the second place: zi5(275), shi5(36), tou5(33), fu5(21), and 200+ more appearing only 1-5 times.
    – blutorange
    Mar 14, 2015 at 1:36
  • @Hikonyan Just like in English there are lots of words that have multiple meanings. This can either be just a coincidence or because these meanings are related. In this case, I don't know the actual etymology, but my guess that すわり had the connotation of "settle" or "rest," so meaning #2 is natural.
    – Kimball
    Mar 15, 2015 at 0:06

2 Answers 2

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「2[音節]{おんせつ}は[音]{おと}のすわりがいいと[好]{この}まれる[傾向]{けいこう}があるのです。」

「すわりがいい」 can mean a few different things and in this case, it is important to treat it in pair with 「音の」. It is not about any other kind of すわり that the author is talking about.

「音のすわりがいい」 would mean "aurally pleasing or agreeable" in my own words.

"Two-syllable words tend to be preferred (in Chinese) as they are aurally pleasing."

「すわりがいい」 is more often used to describe the physical (or spatial) stability of an object and that would probably be what you get from the dictionary. Here, the usage is a little different.

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I imagine it means something like 違和感や不快感がなく自然なさま in this case.

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  • Maybe I'm missing the core meaning here then, but how can two syllables put together have a sense of 違和感 or 快感, if that is how すわりがいい is to be interpreted?
    – Hikonyan
    Mar 13, 2015 at 19:37
  • 1
    Well I think what's going on here is it's saying that two syllables are the preferred sound because it sounds natural. Since according to the sentence these two syllable words are a characteristic of the Chinese language. This is what makes sense to me anyway.
    – wolf
    Mar 13, 2015 at 19:47
  • Thanks for the thoughts, but preferably I can get one more opinion since you are not totally sure
    – Hikonyan
    Mar 13, 2015 at 19:59

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