Cantonese

Last updated
Cantonese
  • 廣東話
    • Gwóngdūng wá
    • gwong2 dung1 waa2
Guangdonghua-vector.svg
Gwóngdūng wá written in traditional Chinese (left) and simplified Chinese (right) characters
Native to China, Hong Kong, Macau, and overseas communities
Region Guangdong, eastern Guangxi
Sino-Tibetan
Early forms
Dialects
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3 yue (superset for all Yue dialects)
Glottolog cant1236
Linguasphere 79-AAA-ma
Idioma cantones.png
Parts of China where Cantonese is spoken.

Cantonese (traditional Chinese :廣東話; simplified Chinese :广东话; Jyutping :gwong2 dung1 waa2; Cantonese Yale :Gwóngdùng 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 Pearl River Delta. It is the traditional prestige variety of the Yue Chinese group, which has over 82.4 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 partially mutually intelligible varieties like Taishanese.

Contents

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 among Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia (most notably in Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in Singapore and Cambodia to a lesser extent), the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Although Cantonese shares much vocabulary with Mandarin and other varieties of Chinese, these Sinitic languages are not mutually intelligible, largely because of phonological differences, but also due to the differences in grammar and vocabulary. Sentence structure, in particular the verb placement, 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 written Standard Mandarin. [2] [3] However, it is only non-verbatim with respect to vernacular Cantonese as it is possible to read Standard Chinese text verbatim in formal Cantonese, often with only slight changes in lexicon that are optional depending on the reader's choice of register. [4] This results in the situation in which a Cantonese and a Mandarin text may look similar but are pronounced differently. Conversely, written (vernacular) Cantonese is mostly used in informal settings like social media and comic books. [2] [3]

Names of Cantonese

Cantonese
Traditional Chinese 廣東話
Cantonese Yale Gwóngdùng wá

Systems of Cantonese romanization are based on the accents of Canton and Hong Kong and have helped define the concept of Standard Cantonese. The major systems are (in order of their invention from newest to oldest): Jyutping, the Chinese government's Guangdong Romanization, Yale, Meyer–Wempe, and Standard Romanization. Jyutping and Yale are the two most used and taught systems today in the West, [86] and they do not differ greatly from one another except in how they mark tones. Additionally, Hong Kong linguist Sidney Lau modified the Yale system for his popular Cantonese-as-a-second-language course, and his variant is another system in use today.

Hong Kong's and Macau's governments use systems of romanization for proper names and geographic locations, but they transcribe some sounds inconsistently. These systems are not taught in schools. Macau's system differs slightly from Hong Kong's in that the spellings are influenced by Portuguese language due to colonial history. For example, while many words in Macau's system are the same as Hong Kong's (e.g. surnames Lam 林, Chan 陳), instances of the letter u under Hong Kong's system are often replaced by o in Macau's (e.g. Chau vs. Chao 周, Leung vs Leong 梁). Neither the spellings of Hong Kong's system nor of Macau's look very similar to mainland China's system called pinyin, chiefly because it distinguishes between Mandarin's two series of stops while they, although the pronunciation of Standard Cantonese's two series is similar to the Mandarin, do not generally distinguish them, they thus rendering not only /pʰ/, /tʰ/, and so forth, but also /p/, /t/, and the remaining non-aspirates, by the simple spellings p, t, etc. vs. it rendering the latter series by b, d, and the like.

Early Western efforts

Systematic efforts to develop an alphabetic representation of Cantonese began with Protestant missionaries arriving in China early in the nineteenth century. Romanization was considered both a tool to help new missionaries learn the variety more easily and a quick route for the unlettered to achieve gospel-literacy. Earlier Catholic missionaries, mostly Portuguese, had developed romanization-schemes for the pronunciation current in the court and capital city of China but made few efforts to romanize other varieties.

Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary in China, published a Vocabulary of the Canton Dialect (1828) with a rather unsystematic romanized pronunciation. Elijah Coleman Bridgman and Samuel Wells Williams in their Chinese Chrestomathy in the Canton Dialect (1841) were the progenitors of a long-lived lineage of related romanizations that with minor variations are embodied in the works of James Dyer Ball, Ernst Johann Eitel, and Immanuel Gottlieb Genähr (1910). Bridgman and Williams based their system on the phonetic alphabet and diacritics proposed by Sir William Jones for South Asian languages.

Their system of romanization embodied the phonological system of a local-dialect rhyme-dictionary, the Fenyun cuoyao, which was widely used and easily obtainable at the time and is still available today. Samuel Wells Willams' Tonic Dictionary of the Chinese Language in the Canton Dialect (Yinghua fenyun cuoyao, 1856) is an alphabetic rearrangement, translation, and annotation of this Fenyun. To adapt the system to the needs of users in an era when there was no standard, but rather only a range of local variants—although the speech of the western suburbs (Xiguan 西關) of Guangzhou was the prestige variety—Williams suggested that users learn and follow their teacher's pronunciation of his chart of Cantonese syllables. It was apparently Bridgman's innovation to mark the tones with (for the upper-register ones) open circles vs. (for the lower-register tones) underlined open circles, in either case at the four corners of the romanized word in analogy with the traditional Chinese system of marking the tone of a character with a circle (lower left for "even", upper left for "rising", upper right for "going", and lower right for "entering" tones).

John Chalmers in his English and Cantonese Pocket-Dictionary (1859) simplified the tone-markings by using: a syllable-final acute accent to mark "rising" tones, a syllable-final grave one to mark the "going" tones, no diacritic for the "even" tones, and italics (or in hand-written work underlining) to mark tones as belonging to the upper register. "Entering" tones could be distinguished by the consonants with which they end (p/t/k). Nicholas Belfeld Dennys used Chalmers' romanization in his primer. This method of marking tones was in most of its details used later also by the Yale romanization, where however, importantly, instead of the upper-register tones being marked by italics, the lower-register ones are marked by an 'h' (which comes after whatever letter spells the last vocalic element in the syllable). Another innovation of Chalmers in this dictionary was to eliminate acute/grave accents on top of vowels by adding more distinctions of vowel-spelling (e.g. a/aa, o/oh), so that the presence vs. absence of an accent over the vowel was no longer needed to distinguish different pronunciations of it.

This new style of romanization still embodied the phonology of the Fenyun, and the name of Tipson is associated with its particular variety that then was fixed upon by his missionary peers to become Standard Romanization. This was the system used importantly: (with virtually no deviation) by Meyer-Wempe's dictionary, (even more faithfully) by Cowles' dictionaries (of 1917 & 1965), by O'Melia's textbook, and by many other works in the first two thirds of the twentieth century. It reigned without serious challenge as the standard spelling until Yale's system was devised and became an important rival to it.

The major linguist Y. R. Chao developed a Cantonese adaptation of his Gwoyeu Romatzyh system. It was first used in Chao's Cantonese Primer, published in 1947 by Harvard University Press (which then in 1948, changed by him very little beyond swapping in of Pekingese for the Cantonese, became his Mandarin Primer, published by the same Press). The system was then modified by K. M. A. Barnett in 1950 into the Barnett-Chao romanization system. [87] The B–C system was used in a handful of texts, including textbooks published by the Hong Kong government, such as Cantonese Conversation Grammar, published in 1963.

Cantonese romanization in Hong Kong

An influential work on Cantonese, A Chinese Syllabary Pronounced According to the Dialect of Canton, written by Wong Shik Ling, was published in 1941. He devised an IPA-based system of transcription, the S. L. Wong system, used by many Chinese dictionaries later published in Hong Kong. Although Wong also devised a romanization-scheme, likewise known as the S. L. Wong system, the latter is not as widely used as his transcription. This system succeeded the Barnett–Chao system as being the one used by the Hong Kong Government Language School.

The Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (LSHK) has advocated the romanization it devised (and named Jyutping). An arguable advantage of it is that its particular use of J for instance (as at the beginning of its name) matches IPA in contrast to most other systems' using Y, resembling English. Some effort has been made to promote Jyutping, but it has yet to be examined how successfully this has caused use of it to proliferate in the region.

Another popular scheme is Cantonese Pinyin, the only system of romanization accepted by the Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau and Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. Books and studies for teachers and students in primary and secondary schools usually use this scheme, but some teachers and students use S.L. Wong's system of transcription.

Those learning Cantonese may feel frustrated that, despite efforts to standardize Cantonese romanizations, most native Cantonese speakers, regardless of their level of education, are unfamiliar with any romanization beyond the conventional, Latin-letter spellings of Cantonese names. Because Cantonese is primarily a spoken language, meaning that its speakers do not in most genres of writing use its own writing-system (instead, in most of their writing, despite having some Chinese characters unique to Cantonese, primarily following modern standard Chinese, which is closely tied to Mandarin), therefore, it is not taught in schools.[ citation needed ] As a result, locals do not learn any of these systems. In contrast to the general use of romanization in Mandarin-speaking areas of China, systems of romanization for Cantonese are excluded from the educational systems of both Hong Kong and the Province of Guangdong. In practice, Hong Kong follows a loose, unnamed romanization-scheme used by the Government of Hong Kong.

Google's Cantonese input uses Yale, Jyutping, or Cantonese Pinyin, the Yale being the first standard. [88] [89]

Comparison

Differences between the three main standards are highlighted in bold. Jyutping and Cantonese Pinyin recognize certain sounds used in a few colloquial words (like /tɛːu˨/ 掉, /lɛːm˧˥/ 舔, and /kɛːp˨/ 夾) but have not been officially recognized in other systems like Yale. [90] [91]

Initials

Romanization systemInitial consonant
Labial Dental/Alveolar Sibilant Velar Labial–velar Glottal Approximant
IPApmftnltstsʰskŋkʷʰhjw
Yalebpmfdtnljchsgknggwkwhyw
Cantonese Pinyinbpmfdtnldztssgknggwkwhjw
Jyutpingbpmfdtnlzcsgknggwkwhjw

Finals

Romanization systemMain vowel
///ɐ//ɛː/, /e///, /ɪ/
IPAaːiaːuaːmaːnaːŋaːpaːtaːkɐ [note 1] ɐiɐuɐmɐnɐŋɐpɐtɐkɛːeiɛːuɛːmɛːŋɛːpɛːkiːuiːmiːnɪŋiːpiːtɪk
Yaleaaaiaauaamaanaangaapaataaka [note 1] aiauamanangapatakeeiengekiiuiminingipitik
Cantonese Pinyinaaaaiaauaamaanaangaapaataakaa [note 1] aiauamanangapatakeeieuemengepekiiuiminingipitik
Jyutpingaaaaiaauaamaanaangaapaataaka [note 1] aiauamanangapatakeeieuemengepekiiuiminingipitik
Romanization systemMain vowel Syllabic consonant
/ɔː/, /o///, /ʊ//œː//ɵ///
IPAɔːɔːiouɔːnɔːŋɔːtɔːkuːiuːnʊŋuːtʊkœːœːŋœːtœːkɵyɵnɵtyːnyːtŋ̩
Yaleooiouonongotokuuiunungutukeueungeukeuieuneutyuyunyutmng
Cantonese Pinyinooiouonongotokuuiunungutukoeoengoekoeyoenoetyynytmng
Jyutpingooiouonongotokuuiunungutukoeoengoetoekeoieoneotyuyunyutmng
  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". [90]

Tones

Romanization systemTone
Dark (陰)Light (陽) Checked (入聲)
Chao Tone Contour 53, 55353321, 1124, 1322532
IPA Tone Letters [92] ˥˧, ˥˧˥˧˨˩, ˩˨˦, ˩˧˨˥˧˨
Yale [85] àáaàháhahākakahk
Cantonese Pinyin123456789
Jyutping123456136

Sample text

The following is a sample text in Cantonese of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with English.

Cantonese [93] 人人生而平等,喺尊嚴同埋權利上一律平等。佢哋有理性同埋良心,而且應當以兄弟關係嘅精神相對待。
IPA/jɐn˨˩ jɐn˨˩ sɐŋ˥˧ ji:˨˩ pʰɪŋ˨˩ tɐŋ˧˥, hɐi˧˥ tsy:n˥˧ jiːm˨˩ tʰʊŋ˨˩ ma:i˨˩ kʰyːn˨˩ lei˨ sœ:ŋ˨ jɐt˥ lɵt˨ pʰɪŋ˨˩ tɐŋ˧˥. kʰɵy˩˧ tei˨ jɐu˩˧ lei˩˧ sɪŋ˧ tʰʊŋ˨˩ ma:i˨˩ lœ:ŋ˨˩ sɐm˥˧, ji:˨˩ tsʰɛ:˧˥ jɪŋ˥ tɔ:ŋ˥˧ ji:˩˧ jy:˩˧ hɪŋ˥˧ tɐi˨ kʷaːn˥˧ hɐi˨ kɛ:˧ tsɪŋ˥˧ sɐn˨˩ sœ:ŋ˥˧ tɵy˧ tɔ:i˨./
Yale romanisation [85] yàhnyàhn sàng yìh pìhngdáng, hái jyùnyìhm tùhngmàaih kyùhn leih seuhng yātleuht pìhngdáng. kéuihdeih yáuh léihsing tùhngmàaih lèuhngsàm, yìhché yìngdòng yíh hìngdaih gwàanhaih ge jìngsàhn sèung deui doih.
Cantonese Pinyinjan4 jan4 sang1 ji4 ping4 dang2, hai2 dzyn1 jim4 tung4 maai4 kyn4 lei6 soeng6 jat7 loet9 ping4 dang2. koey5 dei6 jau5 lei5 sing3 tung4 maai4 loeng4 sam1, ji4 tse2 jing1 dong1 ji5 hing1 dai6 gwaan1 hai6 ge3 dzing1 san4 soeng1 doey3 doi6.
Jyutping romanisationjan4 jan4 sang1 ji4 ping4 dang2, hai2 zyun1 jim4 tung4 maai4 kyun4 lei6 soeng6 jat1 leot6 ping4 dang2. keoi5 dei2 jau5 lei5 sing3 tung4 maai4 loeng4 sam1, ji4 ce2 jing1 dong1 ji5 hing1 dai6 gwaan1 hai6 ge3 zing1 san4 soeng1 deoi3 doi6.
English original:"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

See also

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References

Citations

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Works cited

Further reading