Quote Originally Posted by Thrudd View Post
They are different. The difference may sound subtle to non-Chinese speakers, but it is distinct. Shao is pronounced pretty much as it looks, "show" which rhymes with "now". Xiao has the extra "ee" sound before the "ow", like "sheeow" (still rhymes with "now).

That's not even getting into the different tonalities and contexts which distinguish different words that are Romanized exactly the same.
Yeah, I know Chinese uses tone as much as phoneme to convey pronunciation. I was just wondering if it was something one could hear in the word, or if it was something that only could be detected by seeing it written down.

Thanks for the answer!