Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Standard Cantonese refers to the most prominent dialect of Cantonese (Yue), a subdivision of spoken Chinese. It is spoken in and around the cities of Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau, in China. Standard Cantonese is the official Chinese spoken language of Hong Kong and Macau.
It is casually known as just Cantonese, which in academic context can also refer to the broader category to which it belongs, Yue Chinese or Yuèyǔ (TC:粵語 / SC:粤语). Standard Cantonese is also known as the Guangdong dialect (Guǎngdōnghuà 廣東話 / 广东话), though this is imprecise, since many other dialects are spoken in Guangdong province. It is more formally called the Guangzhou dialect (Guǎngzhōuhuà 廣州話 / 广州话 or Guǎng-fǔ Báihuà 廣府白話 / 广府白话).
Details to be completed later.
Like any dialect, the phonology of Standard Cantonese varies among speakers. Unlike Standard Mandarin, there is no official agency to regulate Standard Cantonese. Below is the phonology accepted by most scholars and educators, the one usually heard on TV or radio in serious broadcast like news reports. Common variations are also described.
|Unaspirated Stops||t||ts||k||( kw )||( ʔ )|
|Aspirated Stops||pʰ||tʰ||tsʰ||kʰ||( kʰw )|
|Approximants||l||( j )||( w )|
Some linguists prefer to analyze /j/ and /w/ as part of finals to make them analogous to the /i/ and /u/ medials in Standard Mandarin, especially in comparative phonological studies. However, since final-heads only appear with null initial, /k/ or /kʰ/, analyzing them as part of the initials greatly reduces the count of finals at the cost of only adding four initials. Some linguists analyze a /ʔ/ (glottal stop) when a vowel other than /i/, /u/ or /y/ begin a syllable.
The position of the coronals varies from dental to alveolar, with /t/ and /tʰ/ more likely to be dental. The position of the sibilants /ts/, /tsʰ/, and /s/ are usually alveolar ([ts], [tsʰ], and [s]), but can be postalveolar ([tʃ], [tʃʰ], and [ʃ]) or alveolo-palatal ([tɕ], [tɕʰ], and [ɕ]), especially before the /iː/, /ɪ/, or /yː/ vowels.
Some native speakers cannot distinguish between /n/ and /l/, and between /ŋ/ and the null initial. Usually they pronounce only /l/ and the null initial. See the discussion on phonological shift below.
Finals (or rhymes) are the remaining part of the syllable after the initial is taken off. There are two kinds of finals in Cantonese, depending on vowel length. The following chart lists all possible finals in Standard Cantonese as represented in IPA:
|-i / -y||ɑːi||ɐi||ei||ɔːi||uːi||ɵy|
Syllabic nasals: /m̩/ /ŋ̩/
Comments to be added later, including alternative interpretion of short vowels.
|Tone name||Yin Ping||Yin Shang||Yin Qu||Yang Ping||Yang Shang||Yang Qu||Shang|
|Contour||55 / 53||35||33||21 / 11||13||22||55||33||22|
|Number||1||2||3||4||5||6||7 (1)||8 (3)||9 (6)|
For purposes of meters in Chinese poetry, the first and fourth tones are traditionally grouped in the "flat category" (平聲), while the rest are "oblique" (仄聲).
In Hong Kong, the first tone can be either high level or high falling without affecting the meaning of the words being spoken. Most Hong Kong speakers are in general not consciously aware of when they use and when to use high level and high falling. In Guangzhou the high falling tone is more usual.
It is interesting to note that there are not actually more tone levels in Standard Cantonese than in Standard Mandarin (three if one excludes the Cantonese low falling tone, which begins on the third level and needs somewhere to fall), only Cantonese has a more complete set of tone courses.
Standard Cantonese mostly preserves the tones in Middle Chinese in the manner shown in the chart below.
|Middle Chinese||Standard Cantonese|
|Tone||Initial||Central Vowel||Tone Name||Tone Contour||Tone Number|
|Ping||V–||Yin Ping||55 / 53||1|
|V+||Yang Ping||21 / 11||4|
|Ru||V–||Short||Shang Yin Ru||55||7 (1)|
|Long||Zhong Yin Ru||33||8 (3)|
|V+||Yang Ru||22||9 (6)|
V– = voiceless initial consonant, V+ = voiced initial consonant. The voice distinction was found in Middle Chinese and has been lost in Cantonese, preserved only by tone differences.
Comments to be added later.
Current Phonological Shift
Like other languages, Cantonese is constantly undergoing sound changes, processes where more and more native speakers of a language change the pronunciations of certain sounds. In Hong Kong, younger native speakers are unable to distinguish between certain phoneme pairs and merge one sound into another. Although that is often considered as substandard and is denounced as being "lazy sounds" (懶音), it is gaining popularity and is influencing other Cantonese-speaking regions. These are the observed shifts:
- Merging of /n/ initial into /l/ initial
- Merging of /ŋ/ initial into null initial
- Merging of /kw/ and /kʰw/ initial into /k/ and /kʰ/ when followed by /ɔː/
- Merging of /ŋ/ ending into /n/ ending, eliminating contrast between these pairs of finals: /ɑːn/-/ɑːŋ/, /ɐn/-/ɐŋ/, and /ɔːn/-/ɔːŋ/.
- Merging of /k/ ending into /t/ ending analogously.
- Merging of the two syllabic nasals, /ŋ̩/ into /m̩/, eliminating contrast between 五 (five) and 唔 (not).
Today in Hong Kong, people still make an effort to avoid those merges in serious broadcasts and in education. Older people usually do not speak like that, but the majority of the younger generation does. Following the sound changes, the name of Hong Kong's Hang Seng Bank in Jyutping romanization, hoeng1 gong2 hang4 sang1 ngan4 hong4 (香港恆生銀行), becomes hoen1 gon2 han4 san1 an4 hon4, sounding like "Hon' Kon' itchy body bank". The name of the Cantonese language itself should be gwong2 dung1 waa2 ("Guangdong speech"), despite the fact that gong2 dung1 waa2 (sounding like "speak eastern speech") and gon2 dung1 waa2 (sounding like "chase away eastern speech") are overwhelmingly popular.
The shift even affects the way some Hong Kong people speak English. This is especially evident in the pronunciation of certain English names. "Nicole" becomes li col, and "Leonardo" becomes leo la do.
Prescriptivists who try to correct these "lazy sounds" often end up introducing hypercorrections though. For instance, in an attempt to ensure that people continue to pronounce the initial /ŋ/, words that historically should have a null initial end up being pronounced with /ŋ/. One of the most prominent examples is the word 愛, meaning "love." Even though the correct pronunciation should be oi3 (/ɔːi/), it ends up being pronounced ngoi3 (/ŋɔːi/).
There are several major romanization schemes for Cantonese: Barnett-Chao , Meyer-Wempe, and Yale. While they do not differ greatly, Yale is the one most commonly seen in the west today. The Hong Kong linguist Sidney Lau modified the Yale system for his popular Cantonese-as-a-second-language course, so that is another system used today by contemporary Cantonese learners. The one advocated by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (LSHK) is called jyutping, which solves many of the inconsistencies and problems of the older, favored, and more familiar system of Yale romanization, but departs considerably from it in a number of ways unfamiliar to Yale users. Some effort has been undertaken to promote jyutping, but it is too early to tell how successful it is.
However, learners may feel frustrated that most native Cantonese speakers, no matter how educated they are, really don't understand any romanization system. Apparently, there is no motive for local people to learn any of these systems. The romanization systems are not included in the education system neither in Hong Kong nor in Guangdong province.
See Written Cantonese.
Cantonese versus Mandarin
Details to be completed later.
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