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Encyclopedia > Written Cantonese

Written Cantonese refers to the written language used to write colloquial standard Cantonese using Chinese characters. Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... A Specimen of typeset fonts and languages, by William Caslon, letter founder; from the 1728 Cyclopaedia. ... A colloquialism is an informal expression, that is, an expression not used in formal speech or writing. ... Standard Cantonese is a variant, and is generally considered the prestige dialect of Cantonese Chinese. ... Technical note: Due to technical limitations, some web browsers may not display some special characters in this article. ...


Cantonese is usually referred to as a spoken variant, and not as a written variant. Spoken vernacular Cantonese is different from standard written Chinese, which is essentially formal Standard Mandarin in written form. Written Chinese spoken word for word in Cantonese sounds overly formal and distant. As a result, the necessity of having a written script which matched the spoken language increased over time. This resulted in the formation of additional Chinese characters to complement the existing characters. Many of these represent phonological sounds not present in Mandarin. A good source for well documented written Cantonese words can be found in the scripts for Cantonese opera. Map of eastern China and Taiwan, showing the historic distribution of Mandarin Chinese in light brown. ... Cantonese opera is one of the major categories in Chinese opera, originating in southern Chinas Cantonese culture. ...


With the advent of the computer and standardization of character sets specifically for Cantonese, many printed materials in predominantly Cantonese spoken areas of the world are written to cater to their population with these written Cantonese characters. As a result, mainstream media such as newspapers and magazines have become progressively less conservative and more colloquial in their dissemination of ideas. Generally speaking, some of the older generation of Cantonese speakers regard this trend as a step "backwards" and away from tradition. This tension between the "old" and "new" is a reflection of a transition that is taking place in the Cantonese-speaking population.

Contents

History

Before the 20th century, the standard written language of China was Classical Chinese, which has grammar and vocabulary based on the Chinese used in ancient China, Old Chinese. However, while this written standard remained essentially static for over two thousand years, the actual spoken language diverged further and further away. Some writings based on local vernacular speech did exist but these were rare. In the early 20th century, Chinese reformers like Hu Shi saw the need for language reform and championed the development of a vernacular that allowed modern Chinese to write the language the same way they speak. The vernacular language movement took hold, and the written language was standardized as Vernacular Chinese. For unity's sake, the Mandarin dialects were chosen as the basis for the new standard, despite the variation in colloquial speech throughout China, on the basis of the number of speakers. Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of very old forms of Chinese , making it very different from any modern spoken form of Chinese. ... The Seal script characters for harvest (later year) and person. ... Look up Vernacular in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Hu Shih (Simplified: 胡适, Traditional: 胡適, Pinyin: Hú Shì), (December 17, 1891-February 24, 1962) was a Chinese philosopher and essayist. ... Vernacular Chinese (pinyin: báihuà; Wade-Giles: paihua) is a style or register of the written Chinese language essentially modeled after the spoken language and associated with Standard Mandarin. ... This article is on all of the Northern and Southwestern Chinese dialects. ...


The standardization and adoption of Vernacular Chinese as standard written Chinese pre-empted the development and standardization of other vernaculars based on other Chinese varieties. No matter what dialects one spoke, one still wrote in standard written Chinese for everyday writing. However, Cantonese is unique among the non-Mandarin spoken varieties in having a widely used colloquial written form. Because of Cantonese speaking Hong Kong’s isolation from the rest of Mainland China while under British rule, Cantonese is also unique in having a large number of speakers who do not speak Mandarin, a fact which has prompted the creation of a standard for Written Cantonese to facilitate written communication between Cantonese speakers without the need for translation. But even so, this kind of writing is considered by some people to be informal, non-standard and unprofessional. Cantonese speakers have to use standard written Chinese in most formal written communications, since written Cantonese contains many unique characters and grammatical structures that may be unfamiliar or even unintelligible to other speakers of other Chinese spoken variants. For the Chinese civilization, see China. ...


Historically, written Cantonese has been used in Hong Kong for legal proceedings in order to write down the exact spoken testimony of a witness, instead of paraphrasing spoken Cantonese into standard written Chinese. However, its popularity and usage has been rising in the last two decades, the late Wong Jim being one of the pioneers of its use as an effective written language. Written colloquial Cantonese has become quite popular in certain tabloids, online chat rooms, and instant messaging. Some tabloids like Apple Daily write colloquial Cantonese; papers may contain editorials that contain Cantonese; and Cantonese-specific characters can be increasingly seen on advertisements and billboards. Written Cantonese remains limited outside of Hong Kong, even in other Cantonese-speaking areas such as Guangdong, where the use of colloquial writing is discouraged. Despite the relative popularity of written Cantonese in Hong Kong, some disdain it, believing that being too accustomed to write in such a way would affect a person's ability to use standard written Chinese in situations that demand it. Wong Jim, James Wong Jim M.Phil. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... A chat room or chatroom is a term used primarily by mass media to describe any form of synchronous conferencing, occasionally even asynchronous conferencing. ... // Instant messaging (IM) is a form of real-time communication between two or more people based on typed text. ... This article is about the Hong Kong version of the tabloid newspaper. ... Not to be confused with the former Kwantung Leased Territory in north-eastern China. ...


Cantonese characters

Written Cantonese contains many characters not used in standard written Chinese in order to transcribe words not present in the standard lexicon. Despite attempts by the government of Hong Kong in the 1990’s to standardize this character set, culminating in the release of the Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set for use in electronic communication, there is still significant disagreement about which characters are ‘correct’ in written Cantonese. The Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set (commonly abbreviated to HKSCS) is a set of Chinese characters -- 4,702 in total in the initial release -- used exclusively in Cantonese. ...


Synonyms

Some characters used to represent words in Cantonese are simply synonyms of words used in standard written Chinese. The most common are the character for the verb "to be" () and the character for "not" (), which are simply replaced by ; and , respectively. Another example is the third-person pronoun (/ "he/she"), which is replaced by . The plural pronoun marker () is replaced by . The possessive particle () is replaced by . For instance: Synonyms (in ancient Greek, συν (syn) = plus and όνομα (onoma) = name) are different words with similar or identical meanings. ... For other uses, see Point of view (literature). ... In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase with or without a determiner, such as you and they in English. ... In linguistics, the term particle is often employed as a useful catch-all lacking a strict definition. ...

Is it theirs?
係唔係佢哋嘅? (Cantonese)
Haih m haih kéuihdeih ge? (Standard Cantonese Yale romanization)
是不是他們的? (Standard Chinese)
Shì bú shì tāmen de? (Standard Mandarin pinyin)
literally: "be not be they POSSESSIVE?"
actual meaning: "Is it theirs?"

The Yale romanizations are four systems created during World War II for use by United States military personnel. ... Map of eastern China and Taiwan, showing the historic distribution of Mandarin Chinese in light brown. ... Pinyin, more formally called Hanyu Pinyin (Simplified Chinese: ; Traditional Chinese: ; Pinyin: ), is the most common variant of Standard Mandarin romanization system in use. ...

Cognates

There are certain words that share a common root with words in standard written Chinese. However, because they have diverged in pronunciation, tone, and/or meaning, they are often written using a different character. One example is the doublet lai2 (standard) and lei4 (Cantonese), meaning "to come." Both share the same meaning and usage, but because the colloquial pronunciation differs from the literary pronunciation, they are represented using two different characters, and , respectively. Some people argue that representing the colloquial pronunciation with a different (and often extremely complex) character is superfluous, and encourage using the same character for both forms since they are cognates (see Derived characters below). A doublet is one of two or more words in a language that share a common root word, but may have traveled into a language through different routes. ... Look up cognate in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Native words

Some words are native to Cantonese and have no equivalents in Standard Chinese (though equivalents may exist in other varieties of Chinese). Another situation is that some Cantonese words, with their corresponding characters, did exist in Standard Chinese in ancient times, but have since become obsolete in Standard Chinese, and only the words, not the characters, survive in Cantonese.


Today those characters can mainly be found in ancient rime dictionaries such as Guangyun. Some scholars have made some "archaeological" efforts to find out what the "original characters" are. Often, however, these efforts are of little use, since the characters so discovered are not available in the standard character sets available to computer users. A rime dictionary or a rime book is a type of Chinese dictionary that was used in ancient times. ... Guangyun (Chinese: 廣韻) is a rime dictionary. ... In computing, Chinese character encodings can be used to represent text written in the CJK languages — Chinese, Japanese, Korean — and (rarely) Vietnamese, all of which use Chinese characters. ...


On the other hand, some of the characters have only been corrupted in Cantonese, not disappeared in Standard Chinese. For instance, it is suggested that the common word leng3 (meaning pretty), written with the character in Cantonese (the character has another meaning in standard Chinese), should rather be written with the character .[1]


Loanwords

These are characters created to represent loanwords borrowed into Cantonese.


Examples:

  • Elevator - 車立 (single character "𨋢"; from British English "lift") /lip1/, composed of the radical ("car", cf. usage of "car" to symbolize a transportation vehicle) and the phonetic component /lɐp6/, which means "to stand."

Particles

Cantonese makes use of particles in speech. Some are added to the end of a sentence while others are suffixed to verbs to indicate aspect. There are many such particles; here are a few.

  • - "mē" placed at end of sentence to indicate disbelief
  • - "nē" placed at end of sentence to indicate question [2]
  • - "meih" placed at end of sentence to ask if action is done yet
  • - (more correctly should be ) "háh" placed after a verb to indicate a little bit, ie "eat a little bit"; "há" used singly, to show uncertainty or unbelief
  • - "gán" placed after a verb to indicate a progressive, ie "I am eating"
  • - "jó" placed after verb to indicate a completed action, ie "I finished eating"
  • - "màaih" placed after verb to indicate a future tense, ie "I will finish eating"
  • - "wà" wow!
Further information: Cantonese grammar

Cantonese is an analytic language where, in a sentence, the arrangement of words is important to its meaning. ...

Cantonese words

In Chinese, distinction is made between single syllable characters, which may represent either a word, morpheme, or particle, and multi-syllabic words. Characters are generally represented by a unique character, while a word may be composed of two or more characters, which may not be necessarily related in meaning. Thus, some Cantonese words may use existing characters to form words which do not exist or possess different meaning in standard Chinese. For other uses, see Word (disambiguation). ... In morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest lingual unit that carries a semantic interpretation. ... In linguistics, the term particle is often employed as a useful catch-all lacking a strict definition. ...


Loanwords

Some Cantonese loanwords are not necessarily written with new characters and simply use the pronunciations of existing Chinese characters. Because many loanwords originated from Hong Kong or overseas Chinese, they often use different characters and pronunciations than the Mandarin Chinese equivalents (if they exist). Languages various Religions Predominantly Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism, traditional Chinese religions, and atheism. ... This article is on all of the Northern Chinese dialects. ...


Examples:

English word Cantonese Mandarin
bus 巴士 (ba si) 公共汽車
taxi 的士 (dik si) 計程車 / 出租車 (but 的士 is increasingly recognized in Mandarin)
bye bye 拜拜 (bai bai)
chocolate 朱古力 (jyu1 goo1 lik1) 巧克力 (qiǎokèlì)
sandwich 三文治 (saam1 man4 zi6) 三明治 (sānmíngzhì)

see [3] for a list of loan words in Cantonese.


Cantonese character formation

Cantonese characters, as with regular Chinese characters, are formed in one of several ways:


Borrowings

Some characters already exist in standard Chinese, but are simply reborrowed into Cantonese with new meanings. Most of these tend to be archaic or rarely used characters. An example is the character 子, which means "child". The Cantonese word for child is represented by 仔(jai), which has the original meaning of "young animal".


Marked phonetic loans

Many characters used in colloquial Cantonese writings are formed by putting a mouth radical (, ) on the left hand side of another more well known character, usually a standard Chinese character. This indicates that the new character sounds like the standard character, but is only used phonetically in the Cantonese context. The characters which are commonly used in Cantonese writing include:

  • (function word)
  • lek7 (adj. smart, clever; originally refers to Singapore)
  • haa4 (function word)
  • (function word)
  • ngaak7 (v. cheat, hoax) Standard Chinese:
  • gam2 (function word like this) Standard Chinese: 這樣 e.g. 噉就死喇
  • gam5 (function word like this) Standard Chinese: 這麽 e.g. 咁大件
  • zo2 (function word past tense) Standard Chinese:
  • me1 (function word)
  • sai3 (function word complete e.g. 搬哂 moved all, finished moving) Standard Chinese: ,
  • dei6 (function word; to show plural from of pronoun) Standard Chinese:
  • ni1 (adv. this) Standard Chinese:
  • m4 (adv. not, no, cannot; originally a function word) Standard Chinese:
  • (function word)
  • ngaam1 (adv. yes, just, nearly) Standard Chinese:
  • di1(genitive, similar to 's but pluralizing i.e. 呢個this one->呢啲these, 快點=快啲=hurry) Standard Chinese: , ,
  • yuk7 (v. move) Standard Chinese:
  • dou6 (adv. there, here) Standard Chinese:
  • hai2 (prep.) At, in, during (time), at, in (place) Standard Chinese:
  • go2 (adv. that) Standard Chinese:
  • ge3 (genitive, similar to 's; sometimes function word) Standard Chinese:
  • maak1 (n. mark, trademark; transliteration of "mark")
  • (function word)
  • (function word)
  • ye5 (n. thing, stuff) Standard Chinese: 東西,
  • saai1 (v. waste)
  • lei4 (v. come, sometimes function word) Standard Chinese:
  • (function word)
  • (function word)
  • etc.

There is evidence that the mouth radical in such characters can, over time, be replaced by a Signific, which indicates the meaning of the character. The new character is then a semantic compound. For instance, (lam1, "bud"), written with the signific ("cover"), is instead written in older dictionaries as , with the mouth radical. Function words are words that have little lexical meaning or have ambiguous meaning, but instead serve to express grammatical relationships with other words within a sentence, or specify the attitude or mood of the speaker. ... In grammar, an adjective is a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun (called the adjectives subject), giving more information about what the noun or pronoun refers to. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... Look up plural in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun is a pro-form that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase with or without a determiner, such as you and they in English. ... Adverbs redirects here. ... Adverbs redirects here. ... The genitive case is a grammatical case that indicates a relationship, primarily one of possession, between the noun in the genitive case and another noun. ... The saxon genitive is the traditional term used for the s word ending in the English language. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... Adverbs redirects here. ... The genitive case is a grammatical case that indicates a relationship, primarily one of possession, between the noun in the genitive case and another noun. ... The saxon genitive is the traditional term used for the s word ending in the English language. ... Transliteration is the practice of transcribing a word or text written in one writing system into another writing system. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... There are several kinds of Chinese characters, including a handful of pictograms (象形 pinyin: xiàngxíng) and a number of indicatives (指事 zhǐshì), but the vast majority are phono-semantic compounds (形聲 xíngshēng). ...


The development of new Cantonese characters is interesting linguistically, because they have never been subject to government standardization, in contrast to Standard Chinese, which has been regulated for over 2000 years. Therefore, a better understanding can be gained of the linguistics of how Chinese writing evolves, and how the script is modelled perceptually by the Chinese reader.


Derived characters

Other common characters are unique to Cantonese or deviated from their Mandarin usage, including: 乜, 冇, 仔, 佢, 佬, 係, 俾, 靚 etc.


The words represented by these characters are sometimes cognates with pre-existing Chinese words. However, their colloquial Cantonese pronunciations have diverged from formal Cantonese pronunciations. For example, in formal written Chinese, (mou4) is the character used for "without". In spoken Cantonese, (mou5) has the same usage, meaning, and pronunciation as , differing only by tone. represents the spoken Cantonese form of the word "without", while represents the word used in Mandarin (pinyin: wú) and formal Chinese writing. However, is still used in some instances in spoken Cantonese, like 無論如何 ("no matter what happens"). Another example is the doublet /, which means "to come". (loi4) is used in formal writing; (lei4) is the spoken Cantonese form. Look up cognate in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A doublet is one of two or more words in a language that share a common root word, but may have traveled into a language through different routes. ...

Further information: Chinese character classification#Derived characters

There are several kinds of Chinese characters, including a handful of pictograms (象形 pinyin: xiàngxíng) and a number of indicatives (指事 zhǐshì), but the vast majority are phono-semantic compounds (形聲 xíngshēng). ...

Colloquial usage

As not all Cantonese words can be found in current encoding system, or the users simply don't know how to enter such characters on the computer, in very informal speech, Cantonese tends to use extremely simple romanization (e.g. use D as 啲), symbols (add an English letter "o" in front of another Chinese character; e.g. 㗎 is defined in recent versions of Unicode, but will not display in many browsers due to lack of proper fonts or the browser's failure to use the correct fonts, hence the proxy o架 is often used), homophones (e.g. use 果 as 嗰), and Chinese characters with different meanings in Mandarin (e.g. 乜, 係, 俾; etc.) to compose a message. For example, "你喺嗰喥好喇, 千祈咪搞佢啲嘢。" is often written in easier form as "你o係果度好喇, 千祈咪搞佢D野。" (character-by-character, approximately 'you, being, there (two characters), good, (final particle), thousand, pray, don't, mess with, him, (genitive particle), things', translation 'You'd better stay there, and please don't mess with his/her stuff.')


References

  • Snow, Donald Bruce (1991). "Written Cantonese and the culture of Hong Kong: the growth of a dialect literature", PhD Thesis, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International.
  • _____(1994). "A short history of published Cantonese: what is dialect literature?" in Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 4(3), pp.127-132.
  • _____(2004). Cantonese as Written Language: The Growth of a Written Chinese Vernacular Hong Kong University Press ISBN 962-209-709-X

External links

Wikipedia
Written Cantonese edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1058x1058, 477 KB) aa Wikipedia logo, version 1058px square, no text Wikipedia logo by Nohat (concept by Paullusmagnus); compare Wikipedia File links The following pages link to this file: Arabic language Talk:Anarcho-capitalism Talk:Algorithm Talk:Anno Domini Talk:The... Wikipedia (IPA: , or ( ) is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project, operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization. ...

[edit] Chinese: spoken varieties  
Generally accepted first-level categories:

Mandarin | Wu | Cantonese | Min | Hakka | Xiang | Gan |
Spoken Chinese Spoken Chinese comprises many regional variants. ... This article is on all of the Northern and Southwestern Chinese dialects. ... Wu (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; Chinese: ; pinyin: ) is one of the major divisions of the Chinese language. ... This article is about all of the Cantonese (Yue) dialects. ... Min (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; POJ: Bân hong-giân; BUC: Mìng huŏng-ngiòng) is a general term for a group of dialects of the Chinese language spoken in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian as well as by migrants from this province in Guangdong (around Chaozhou-Swatou... Hakka (Simplified Chinese: 客家话, Traditional Chinese: 客家話, Pronunciation in Hakka: Hak-ka-fa/-va, Pinyin: Kèjiāhuà) is a spoken variation of the Chinese language spoken predominantly in southern China by the Hakka ethnic group and descendants in diaspora throughout East and Southeast Asia and around the world. ... Xiang (湘語/湘语), also Hunan, Hunanese, or Hsiang, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Gàn (赣语) is one of the major divisions of spoken Chinese, a member of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages, concentrated in and typical of Jiangxi Province. ...

Often accepted first-level categories:

Jin | Hui | Ping Jin (simplified: 晋语; traditional: 晉語; pinyin: jìnyǔ), or Jin-yu, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... The Hui (徽) dialects are unrelated to the Hui (回) ethnic group of China. ... Pinghua (平話/平话), also Guangxi Nanning, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ...

Unclassified:

Danzhouhua | Shaozhou Tuhua Danzhouhua (hua = language) 儋州話 / 儋州话 is an unclassified Chinese dialect spoken in the area of Danzhou on the island Hainan. ... Shaozhou Tuhua ( 韶州土話 / 韶州土话 ) is an unclassified Chinese language spoken in the border region of the provinces Guangdong, Hunan and Guangxi. ...

Subcategories of Mandarin: Northeastern | Beijing | Ji-Lu | Jiao-Liao | Zhongyuan | Lan-Yin | Southwestern | Taiwanese | Jianghuai | Dungan
Subcategories of Min: Min Bei | Min Dong | Min Nan | Min Zhong | Puxian | Qiong Wen | Shaojiang
Comprehensive list of Chinese dialects     |     Identification of the varieties of Chinese
Historical phonology: Old Chinese | Middle Chinese | Proto-Min | Proto-Mandarin | Haner
Written varieties
Official written varieties: Classical Chinese | Vernacular Chinese
Other varieties: Written Vernacular Cantonese

  Results from FactBites:
 
Written Cantonese - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2375 words)
Cantonese is usually referred to as a spoken variant, and not as a written variant.
Written Cantonese remains limited outside of Hong Kong, even in other Cantonese-speaking areas such as Guangdong, where the use of colloquial writing is discouraged.
Cantonese is famous for the use of particles in speech.
Cantonese language - definition of Cantonese language in Encyclopedia (1841 words)
Cantonese is most commonly spoken in Hong Kong, the financial and cultural capital of the Cantonese diaspora, and in one form or another in many if not most Chinatowns around the world.
They are written using very similar characters, but in Mandarin their pronunciation is quite different ("wǒ" vs. "è;"), whereas in Cantonese they are pronounced identically except for their tones (ngo5 vs ngo6 respectively).
Despite the broad area over which Cantonese is spoken, most universities in the US do not and have not historically taught Cantonese, but Mandarin, which is used officially by both the People's Republic of China and Republic of China, and formerly in Imperial China as the court dialect.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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