John writes:

>Many Mandarin dialects render /N/ (but not /n/ AFAIK) as nasalization.

and in a different message:

>I would guess that Mandarin and Min nasalization are probably independent.

(I should think so)

>Mandarin has reduced the opposition to -n vs. -N, whereas in Shanghainese
>there is only one, conventionally labeled /-N/ but which is very often
>realized as nasalization.

It's very interesting that you should say this, because my personal
experience has been practically exactly opposite. I tried to find
some literature to back up my own view, but it didn't pan out.
According to S. Robert Ramsey's _The Languages of China_,
Shanghainese's /-N/ indeed *can* be realized as nasalization (he
says: "the word for 'square',...can be pronounced as either /fON1/ or
/fO~1/.") Well, okay...I gueeeess... but *I* never heard it, and I
was a Shanghai groupee back in the late '80s. "Very often" may be
overstating the case, but far be it from me to take either you or Mr.
Ramsey on; I'm merely working on intuition, which could well be wrong.

As for Mandarin: for me, in a word like "da4bian4" ("poop") or
"fang1bian4" ("convenient"), the "bian4" sounds akin to the French
"bien" ("well"), though not so nasalized. So a final "-n" can be
realized as /n/ in very careful speech (or songs) but is usually
pronounced lightly nasalized (ie: not as nasalized as French or
Taiwanese, but the tongue does not directly touch the roof of the
mouth). I could've sworn I read about this phenomenon somewhere, but
trolling through both Ramsey and the Li & Thompson has yielded
nothing yet, and it's not *that* important.

That /N/ can be rendered nasalized is totally playing with my head --
I've never experienced this on either side of the strait. Could you
give an example?

Now, "junk": the Mandarin word is "fan1chuan2" (Cantoversion as Sun
Wukong's latest incarnation, Mr. Czhang, gives us: "fan1sün4" (okay,
I acquiesce, "faan1suen4")). Literally, it's "sail""boat" (fan =
sail; chuan = boat), but obviously doesn't first conjure up to
Chinese minds the notion of the Western recreational vessel. One
dictionary proffers that if you really want to get specific, you can
stick "ping2di3" ("flat bottomed") in front, but that's probably a
bit much.

A bewildered and bedazzled non-native,

I am