A one-syllable article () is a type of
constrained writing Constrained writing is a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern. Constraints are very common in poetry, which often requires the writer to use a particular verse form. D ...
found in Chinese literature. It takes advantage of the large number of homophones in the Chinese language, particularly when writing in
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak", meaning "literary language/speech"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text", meaning "literar ...
due to historic sound changes. While the characters used in a one-syllable article have many different meanings, they are all pronounced as the same syllable, although not with the same tone. Therefore, a one-syllable article is comprehensible in writing but becomes an incomprehensible
tongue twister A tongue twister is a phrase that is designed to be difficult to articulate properly, and can be used as a type of spoken (or sung) word game. Additionally, they can be used as exercises to improve pronunciation and fluency. Some tongue twisters pr ...
when read aloud, especially in
Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Chinese (Sinitic) dialects that are natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of the phonology of Standard Chinese, the official language o ...
pronunciation. In other regional pronunciations, not all syllables may sound alike.

Notable examples

Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den "Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den" () is a short narrative poem written in Classical Chinese that is composed of about 94 characters (depending on the specific version) in which every word is pronounced ''shi'' () when read in present-day Stand ...
(), by
Yuen Ren Chao Yuen Ren Chao (; 3 November 1892 – 25 February 1982), also known as Zhao Yuanren, was a Chinese-American linguist, educator, scholar, poet, and composer, who contributed to the modern study of Chinese phonology and grammar. Chao was born an ...
* (), by He Yuanwai * () * () * () * () * () * ()

See also

* Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo *
James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher "James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher" is an English sentence used to demonstrate lexical ambiguity and the necessity of punctuation, which serves as a substitute for the intonation, stres ...

External links

The story of a lion eating a pig
() Over 600 characters {{SinoTibetan-lang-stub Constrained writing Chinese literature Chinese language Language games Homonymy in Chinese