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Gwóngdūng wá
Gwóngdūng wá written in traditional Chinese (left) and simplified Chinese (right) characters
Native to China, Hong Kong, Macau, and overseas communities
Region Pearl River Delta of Guangdong, eastern Guangxi
Chinese Traditional
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong
Flag of Macau.svg  Macau
Language codes
ISO 639-3 yue (superset for all Yue dialects)
Glottolog cant1236
Linguasphere 79-AAA-ma

Cantonese (traditional Chinese :廣東話; simplified Chinese :广东话; Yale: Gwóngdūng wá) is a language within the Chinese (Sinitic) branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages originating from the city of Guangzhou (historically known as Canton) and its surrounding area in Southeastern China. It is the traditional prestige variety of the Yue Chinese dialect group, which has over 80 million native speakers. [1] While the term Cantonese specifically refers to the prestige variety, it is often used to refer to the entire Yue subgroup of Chinese, including related but largely mutually unintelligible languages and dialects such as Taishanese.


Cantonese is viewed as a vital and inseparable part of the cultural identity for its native speakers across large swaths of Southeastern China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as in overseas communities. In mainland China, it is the lingua franca of the province of Guangdong (being the majority language of the Pearl River Delta) and neighbouring areas such as Guangxi. It is also the dominant and co-official language of Hong Kong and Macau. Cantonese is also widely spoken amongst Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia (most notably in Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in Singapore and Cambodia to a lesser extent) and throughout the Western world.

Although Cantonese shares much vocabulary with Mandarin, the two Sinitic languages are mutually unintelligible, largely because of phonological differences, but also due to differences in grammar and vocabulary. Sentence structure, in particular the placement of verbs, sometimes differs between the two varieties. A notable difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is how the spoken word is written; both can be recorded verbatim, but very few Cantonese speakers are knowledgeable in the full Cantonese written vocabulary, so a non-verbatim formalized written form is adopted, which is more akin to the Mandarin written form. [2] [3] This results in the situation in which a Cantonese and a Mandarin text may look similar but are pronounced differently.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Jyutping recognizes the distinction between final "short a" /ɐ/ and "long a" /aː/. The "short a" can occur in elided syllables such as the 十 in 四十四 (sei3-a6-sei3), which the other systems would transcribe with same spelling as the "long a". [77]


Traditional Chinese 廣東話
Simplified Chinese 广东话
Cantonese Yale Gwóngdūng wá
Romanization systemTone
Dark (陰)Light (陽) Checked (入聲)
Cantonese Pinyin123456789
Chao Tone Contour 55, 53353321, 1124, 1322532
IPA Tone Letters [79] ˥, ˥˧˧˥˧˨˩, ˩˨˦, ˩˧˨˥˧˨

See also

Related Research Articles

Chinese language Sinitic branch of Sino-Tibetan

Chinese is a group of languages that form the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages, spoken by the ethnic Han Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in Greater China. About 1.3 billion people speak a variety of Chinese as their first language.

Mandarin Chinese Major branch of Chinese spoken across most of northern and southwestern China

Mandarin is a group of Sinitic (Chinese) languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of the phonology of Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin originated in North China and most Mandarin dialects are found in the north, the group is sometimes referred to as Northern Chinese. Many varieties of Mandarin, such as those of the Southwest and the Lower Yangtze, are not mutually intelligible or are only partially intelligible with the standard language. Nevertheless, Mandarin is often placed first in lists of languages by number of native speakers.

Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of Chinese. Standard Mandarin is designated as one of the major languages in the United Nations, mainland China, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Hakka Chinese Primary branch of Chinese originating in Southern China

Hakka is a language group of varieties of Chinese, spoken natively by the Hakka people throughout Southern China and Taiwan and throughout the diaspora areas of East Asia, Southeast Asia and in overseas Chinese communities around the world.

Guangdong Most populous province of China, on the coast of the South China Sea

Guangdong, alternately romanized as Canton Province or Kwangtung, is a coastal province in South China on the north shore of the South China Sea. The capital of the province is Guangzhou. With a population of 126.01 million across a total area of about 179,800 km2 (69,400 sq mi), Guangdong is the most populous province of China and the 15th-largest by area as well as the second-most populous country subdivision in the world. Its economy is larger than that of any other province in the nation and the 4th largest sub-national economy in the world with GDP of 1.66 trillion USD in 2019. The Pearl River Delta Economic Zone, a Chinese megalopolis, is a core for high technology, manufacturing and foreign trade. Located in this zone are two of the four top Chinese cities and the top two Chinese prefecture-level cities by GDP; Guangzhou, the capital of the province, and Shenzhen, the first special economic zone in the country. These two are among the most populous and important cities in China, and have now become two of the world's most populous megacities.

Yue Chinese Primary branch of Chinese spoken in southern China

Yue is a group of similar Sinitic languages spoken in Southern China, particularly in Liangguang.

Varieties of Chinese Family of local language varieties

Chinese, also known as Sinitic, is a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family consisting of hundreds of local varieties, many of which are not mutually intelligible. Variation is particularly strong in the more mountainous southeast of mainland China. The varieties are typically classified into several groups: Mandarin, Wu, Min, Xiang, Gan, Hakka and Yue, though some varieties remain unclassified. These groups are neither clades nor individual languages defined by mutual intelligibility, but reflect common phonological developments from Middle Chinese.

Taishanese, or in the Cantonese romanization Toisanese, is a language of Yue Chinese. The language is related to and is often referred to as Cantonese but has little mutual intelligibility with the latter. Taishanese is spoken in the southern part of Guangdong Province in China, particularly around the city-level county of Taishan located on the western fringe of the Pearl River Delta. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, a significant amount of Chinese emigration to North America originated from Siyi (Seiyap), the area where this variety is natively spoken; making Taishanese a dominant variety of the Chinese language spoken in Chinatowns in Canada and the United States. It was formerly the lingua franca of the overseas Chinese residing in the United States.

Teochew is a dialect of Chaoshan Min, a Southern Min language, that is spoken by the Teochew people in the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong and by their diaspora around the world. It is sometimes referred to as Chiuchow, its Cantonese rendering, due to the English romanisation by colonial officials and explorers. It is closely related to some dialects of Hokkien, as it shares some cognates and phonology with Hokkien. The two are relatively mutually intelligible. Although the two are far from the exact same language, it is possible for Hokkien and Teochow speakers to converse relatively easily.

Written Cantonese Cantonese written tradition

Written Cantonese is the written form of Cantonese, the most complete written form of Chinese after that for Mandarin Chinese and Classical Chinese. Written Chinese was originally developed for Classical Chinese, and was the main literary language of China until the 19th century. Written vernacular Chinese first appeared in the 17th century and a written form of Mandarin became standard throughout China in the early 20th century. While the Mandarin form can in principle be read and spoken word for word in other Chinese varieties, its intelligibility to non-Mandarin speakers is poor to incomprehensible because of differences in idioms, grammar and usage. Modern Cantonese speakers have therefore developed new characters for words that do not exist and have retained others that have been lost in standard Chinese.

The subgroups of the Han Chinese people, Chinese dialect groups or just dialect groups, are defined based on linguistic, cultural, ethnic, genetic and regional features. The terminology used in Mandarin to describe the groups is: "minxi", used in Mainland China or "zuqun", used in Taiwan. No Han subgroup is recognized as one of People's Republic of China's 56 official minority ethnic groups. Scholars like James W. Hayes have described the Han Chinese subgroups as "ethnic group" outright, at least in the context of Hong Kong society.

<i>Punti</i> Cantonese endonym referring to the native Cantonese people of Guangdong and Guangxi, China

Punti is a Cantonese endonym referring to the native Cantonese people of Guangdong and Guangxi. Punti designates Weitou dialect-speaking locals in contrast to other Yue Chinese speakers and others such as Taishanese people, Hoklo people, Hakka people, and ethnic minorities such as the Zhuang people of Guangxi and the boat-dwelling Tanka people, who are both descendants of the Baiyue – although the Tanka have largely assimilated into Han Chinese culture.

Cantonese people Ethnic group native to parts of southern China

The Cantonese people, or Yue people, are a Yue-speaking Han Chinese subgroup originating from or residing in the provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, in Southern Mainland China. Although more accurately, "Cantonese" refers only to the people from Guangzhou and its satellite cities and towns and/or native speakers of Standard Cantonese, rather than simply and generally referring to the people of the Liangguang region.

The Weitou dialect is a dialect of Yue Chinese. It forms part of the Guan–Bao branch of Yuehai. It is spoken by older generations in Luohu and Futian districts in Shenzhen, and by those in the New Territories, Hong Kong.

In historical linguistics, the history of the Chinese language includes the various changes over time of the Chinese language in its various incarnations. Earliest known origins of the Chinese language date back 6,000 years. Modern day characters had not been introduced until centuries later, leaving many components of Chinese language quite obscure and unknown.

Hong Kong Cantonese Language native to Hong Kong

Hong Kong Cantonese is a dialect of the Cantonese language of the Sino-Tibetan family. It is the native and de facto standard language of Hong Kong. A similar dialect is also spoken in Macau.

Cantonese Wikipedia Cantonese-language edition of Wikipedia

The Cantonese Wikipedia is the Cantonese-language edition of Wikipedia, run by the Wikimedia Foundation. It was started on 25 March 2006.

The standard pronunciation of Cantonese is that of Guangzhou, also known as Canton, the capital of Guangdong Province. Hong Kong Cantonese is related to the Guangzhou dialect, and the two diverge only slightly. Yue dialects in other parts of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, such as Taishanese, may be considered divergent to a greater degree.

The usage of Chinese by the Chinese diaspora and their descendants has been determined by a large number of factors, including their ancestry, their migrant ancestors' "regime of origin", assimilation through generational changes, and official policies of their country of residence. The general trend is that more established Chinese populations in the Western world and in many regions of Asia have Cantonese as either the dominant variety or as a common community vernacular, while Mandarin is much more prevalent among new arrivals, making it increasingly common in many Chinatowns, though still not dominant.



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Works cited

Further reading