In Mandarin Chinese, when the suffix -r is added to syllables ending in -n and -N, both consonants are dropped but the vowel is nasalized in the case of N. It has recently been argued (Zhang 2000) that this is because in the unsuffixed forms there is already a greater degree of nasalization in the case of -N than in the case of -n and that this merely allophonic contrast becomes distinctive when the suffix is added. It is here claimed that there is already a phonemic distinction present in the unsuffixed forms, namely pharyngealization of the velar nasal, and that furthermore there is a pharyngeal glide /A9/ coda in the case of so-called ‘open’ syllables ending mid and low vowels. This is supported by comparison with the Changli dialect in which both nasal finals are deleted before -r but the distinctions are uniformly preserved. Further evidence for the need to recognize the pharyngeal glide /A9/ as a possible phoneme and for replacing the dorsal feature [±low] with the tongue-root feature [±RTR] in distinctive feature theory is adduced from the history of Chinese as well as from other languages, including English, where it takes the place of the traditional tense/lax contrast in short and long vowels. This supports the concept of featural contrasts that are strictly speaking redundant according to the standard test of minimal pairs but that serve to enhance distinctions that would otherwise be easy to confuse.