Pinyin is basically the alphabet for the Chinese language (han yu). There are four basic tones in Mandarin Chinese for Chinese Pinyin.
1st tone- high level: high pitched and the voice neither rises nor falls;
2nd tone (rising): starts with the pitch of the voice lower but end s up as high as in the first tone;
3rd tone (falling -rising): starts with the voice for lower than the second tone, dips and then rises in a rather drawn-out way;
4th tone (falling) : the voice falls from high to low.
Every syllable in Chinese has a definite tone, and every syllable is pronounced according to one of the four tones, except when it is unstressed. In this case the tone distinctions disappear, and the pronunciation of the unstressed syllable is light and short. The difference in tones indicates the meaning of words. For example, "mā 妈" with high level tone means "mother", "má 麻" with rising tone means "linen", "mǎ 马" with falling-rising tone means "horse", and "mà 骂" with falling tone means "curse".
And also, the same pronunciation with same tone such as "mǎ" have a few characters and indicate different meanings.
For the purposes of a Chinese student, I think it’s helpful to think of pinyin as the alphabet for Mandarin Chinese, and to think of Chinese characters as basically the actual written form. Pinyin is how Chinese words are pronounced, whereas Chinese characters are how they are seen in books, newspapers and magazines etc.
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