An A-B-C Guide For Complete
Beginners
Brief Sketch Of Cantonese
Introduction
•Cantonese is a language that has a
wide sphere of influence
•Places spoken include:
Canton(Guangdong)
Hong...
Map of Canton and Neighbouring Areas
Map of South East Asia
•Cantonese is the most widely known and
influential variety of Chinese other than Mandarin
•Role of Cantonese is increasin...
Agenda
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Phonology
Cantonese Conversation
Morphology
Parts of speech
Word Order
Conclusion
Phonology
• Various transcriptions out there
• Used Yale system developed by Parker
Huang & Gerald Kok
• Modified to make ...
Modifications
1) Merger of non-distinctive high-level &
high-falling tones
2) Hyphens to show division of words
3) Classif...
Short Intro to Sound System
• Tone-contour language, 6 tones
(Yale)
• 16 initial consonants, 6 final
consonants, 8 vowels ...
Initial Consonants
Unaspirated
(voiceless)

Aspirated
(voiceless)

Fricative

Nasal / Liquid

Bilabial

b

p

f

m

Dental...
Initial Consonants
• gw & kw are coarticulated stops, i.e. the velar
sound g or k is articulated simultaneously with
the b...
Final consonants
• -p, -t, -k, -m, -n, -ng
• Unreleased (-p, -t, -k), Nasal (-m, n, -ng)
• Phenomenon of merger of –k to –...
Vowels
Front
High
Mid
Low

Central

Back

i
e

yu
eu
a, aa

u
o

• i & u lower before velar final consonants k &
ng
• eu r...
Vowels
• Length contrast is present in long ‘aa’
or short ‘a’
• Depends on situation
• No distinctive contrast when appear...
Syllable Structure
• (C)V(V)(C)
• only –m, -n, -ng, -p, -t, -k allowed at end
of syllable
• not all combinations exist, e....
Tones
• 6 distinctive tones
– high level:
– high rising:
– mid level:
– low falling:
– low rising:
– low level:

yāu ‘worr...
Tones
35

High Level 55

Ri
gh

–
–
–
–
–
–

Hi

4

si
n

g

5

3

2

Mid Level 33
3
g2
n
isi
R
ow
L
Low Level 22

Lo

1

...
Tone Change
• Compounds, Reduplication
• jó yauh  jó-yáu (‘approximately’)
• sòh  sòh-só-déi (‘rather silly’)
Morphology
• 3 main ways by which words are
formed in Cantonese
• 1) Affixation (prefixes and suffixes)
• 2) Reduplication...
1) Affixation
Prefixes:
‘a’ is a prefix used with names and
kinship terms, showing familiarity
E.g: a-màh ‘grandmother’
a-...
Suffixes
deih is the plural suffix forming pronoun, with the
exception of yàhn.
Ngóh –deih
I + deih = ‘we’
Léih – deih
You...
Fa – verbal suffix, forms verbs from
nouns and adjectives
Fa with nouns:
• Dihnlóuh- fa
Computer + fa (ize) = ‘computerize...
2) Reduplication – the doubling of
a word or syllable, many word
classes can be reduplicated
sòh – silly (adj)
Sòh + só (r...
• Reduplication can occur in
onomatopoeic, often with tone change of
the second syllable expressions
• Gohk
Gohk + gók (re...
3) Compounding
The combination of two or more
independent morphemes to form a
single new word, the meaning often
being not...
Compound nouns:
• Jáu – dim
Wine-shop
‘hotel’

Compound Verbs:
jáu- tòhng
Leave- lesson
‘skip classes’

hōi - dōu
open - k...
Compound adjectives
a) Adjective
+ noun
= adjective
hāk (black) + sām (heart) = malicious

b) Adjective
gōu (high)

+ adje...
Parts of speech
• The noun Phrase
• Consists of a noun and those items
which change or accompany it
• Order of the noun ph...
Definiteness and demonstratives
• Cantonese has no articles having the
equal meaning of ‘a’ or ‘the’
• ‘yāt’ is used as an...
Demonstratives ‘nī’ and ‘gó’
• ‘nī’ – ‘this’ and ‘gó’- that
• E.gs: nī – go - leuhsī
this – Cl – lawyer
‘gó’ – deui – fūfú...
Classifers – measure words
‘jek’ and ‘ga’– follows a numeral or
quantifier
E.g : léuhng –jek- dáan
two - CL- eggs
nī - ga ...
More classifiers…
• Collective classifiers ( similar to English
collective nouns)
E.gs: bāan – group/bunch
nī bāan yàhn – ...
Container classifiers – denote
commodities and products eg: food and
drinks.
Būi – cup eg: bei ngóh būi
chàh
‘give me a cu...
The Verb phrase
• Types of verbs
• Copular verb : haih - ‘be’
• Stative verb: jūngyi – ‘like’, sīk‘know’
• Action verbs: j...
Copula verb: haih – ‘be’
(am,are,were)
Main function is to join two noun phrases together
Eg: gó dī yàhn haih ngóh ge pàhn...
Serial Verb construction in verb
phrases
A serial verb construction is one of
the most prominent feature in
Cantonese, it ...
Examples of serial verbs….
Ngóh heui tái
hei
I
go
watch show.
‘ I go and watch a show.’
Kéuideih yuhng dī chín
heui máih l...
Adjectives
Adjectives are usually preceded by hóu – ‘very’
Eg: hóu sau (thin), hóu gēng (afraid)
Adjectives may undergo re...
Modification of adjectives
Géi – ‘quite’ eg: géi chūngmìhng ‘quite smart’
Fēisèuhng – ‘extremely’
Gam- ‘so’ eg: gam hou ‘s...
Parts of Speech….
Cantonese Verbs and adjectives
• Hard to differentiate between them
in certain cases
• Verbs and adjecti...
Example: Béi (v) & sau (adj)
béi (v) : give (v)
béj (v) + jó = Given
sau (adj) : thin (adj)
Sau (adj) + jó = have become t...
Cantonese prepositions and verbs
Unclear distinction between prepositions and
verbs in some cases
‘coverb’- a term for wor...
‘Tùhng’ in sentence construction
Ngóh tùhng ngóh pàhng yáu góng gán wá.
‘ I am talking to/with my friend’
góng gán- talkin...
WORD ORDER IN
CANTONESE
Basic Concepts
• Heavy reliance on word order
• Basic word order (Subject-VerbObject)
• Can be said as a SVO language
Exceptions
• Deviation from the SVO order
•
•
•
•

A) Subject-Object-Verb order
B) Subject-Verb Inversion
C) Right Disloca...
S-0-V Word Order
• Ex: Ngóh Yīnggwok meih heui-gwo
I England havent go
S
O
V

P

-> I havent been to England
-> P: Perfect...
Subject-Verb Inversion
• Subject appears after the verb
• Happens to certain intransitive verbs
• Ex: Gāmyaht làih-jó yāt ...
Right Dislocation
• Noun/Pronoun (subject of a clause)
• Appearing at the end of a sentence
(dislocated position)
• Ex: Hó...
Topicalization
• An important typological feature of
Cantonese
• Placement of a word or phrase at the
beginning of a sente...
Topicalization (Cont’)
• Topic -> A word/phrase which the comment
says something about
-> A word/phrase that explains the
...
Topicalization (Cont’)
• Chao (1968)
• Chinese sentence structure consists
not of subject-predicate , but of topiccomment
...
Topicalization (Cont’)
•
•
•
•

Compared to English
English :Subject-Predicate
Subject- a grammatical requirement
“It” – d...
Topicalization (Cont’)
• In Cantonese , many sentences lack an
overt subject and it is still grammatical
• No dummy subjec...
Topicalization (Cont’)
• Yìhgā ge tīnhei yùhngyih sēung-fūng
now P weather easy catch a cold
-> It’s easy to catch a cold ...
Topicalization (Cont’)
• Yìhgā ge tīnhei yùhngyih sēung-fūng
now P weather easy catch a cold
(It’s easy to catch a cold in...
Conclusion
•Use by non-native speakers
Speculation: more interaction
between mandarin and Cantonese
Due to increasing po...
• Presence of Mandarin and English
influence, eg, ‘fēi’(ticket) came
from ‘fare’ in English
Constantly evolving Cantonese...
Ending note
http://members.tripod.com/~DorothyMa/index2.html
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An a b-c intro to canto for total new speakers

  1. 1. An A-B-C Guide For Complete Beginners Brief Sketch Of Cantonese
  2. 2. Introduction •Cantonese is a language that has a wide sphere of influence •Places spoken include: Canton(Guangdong) Hong Kong & Macau South East Asia Chinatowns of many Western countries like United States, Canada,etc
  3. 3. Map of Canton and Neighbouring Areas
  4. 4. Map of South East Asia
  5. 5. •Cantonese is the most widely known and influential variety of Chinese other than Mandarin •Role of Cantonese is increasing due to the economic development of Canton and Hong Kong •A tonal language, with up of 6 tones (Yale) •Grammatical structure is very similar to that of Mandarin •However, analysis from English's perspective shows otherwise.
  6. 6. Agenda 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Phonology Cantonese Conversation Morphology Parts of speech Word Order Conclusion
  7. 7. Phonology • Various transcriptions out there • Used Yale system developed by Parker Huang & Gerald Kok • Modified to make system easier to use • Rising, falling accents on vowels representing rising, falling tones • Arbitrary ‘h’ representing low-register tones
  8. 8. Modifications 1) Merger of non-distinctive high-level & high-falling tones 2) Hyphens to show division of words 3) Classifiers & verbal particles written separately 4) Apostrophes for reduced forms
  9. 9. Short Intro to Sound System • Tone-contour language, 6 tones (Yale) • 16 initial consonants, 6 final consonants, 8 vowels (Yale) • Variation - individual, social or age
  10. 10. Initial Consonants Unaspirated (voiceless) Aspirated (voiceless) Fricative Nasal / Liquid Bilabial b p f m Dental / alveolar d t s n/l Velar / glottal g k h ng Labiovelar gw kw Affricates j ch
  11. 11. Initial Consonants • gw & kw are coarticulated stops, i.e. the velar sound g or k is articulated simultaneously with the bilabial w • However, a tendency to simplify gw to g & kw to k • “ng” • j, ch, s may be palatalized or partially palatalized by yu or eu • 2 semivowels, y & w
  12. 12. Final consonants • -p, -t, -k, -m, -n, -ng • Unreleased (-p, -t, -k), Nasal (-m, n, -ng) • Phenomenon of merger of –k to –t, paralleling –ng to –n (velar to alveolar)
  13. 13. Vowels Front High Mid Low Central Back i e yu eu a, aa u o • i & u lower before velar final consonants k & ng • eu realized as [œ] by itself & before velar consonants, [ø] before t, n, i (yu)
  14. 14. Vowels • Length contrast is present in long ‘aa’ or short ‘a’ • Depends on situation • No distinctive contrast when appears at end of syllable • Diphthongs – ai, aai, au, aau, ei, eui (euy), iu, ou, oi, ui
  15. 15. Syllable Structure • (C)V(V)(C) • only –m, -n, -ng, -p, -t, -k allowed at end of syllable • not all combinations exist, e.g. *-eup • in onomatopoeic sounds, -em & -up can occur, e.g. lém-lém-leih = lick-licktongue, bùhp-búp tiu = ‘bop-bop jump’
  16. 16. Tones • 6 distinctive tones – high level: – high rising: – mid level: – low falling: – low rising: – low level: yāu ‘worry’ yáu ‘paint’ yau ‘thin’ yàuh ‘oil’ yáuh ‘have’ yauh ‘again’
  17. 17. Tones 35 High Level 55 Ri gh – – – – – – Hi 4 si n g 5 3 2 Mid Level 33 3 g2 n isi R ow L Low Level 22 Lo 1 Tone Level wF all in g2 1 high level: high rising: mid level: low falling: low rising: low level: yāu ‘worry’ yáu ‘paint’ yau ‘thin’ yàuh ‘oil’ yáuh ‘have’ yauh ‘again’
  18. 18. Tone Change • Compounds, Reduplication • jó yauh  jó-yáu (‘approximately’) • sòh  sòh-só-déi (‘rather silly’)
  19. 19. Morphology • 3 main ways by which words are formed in Cantonese • 1) Affixation (prefixes and suffixes) • 2) Reduplication (doubling of words or syllables) • 3) Compounding (combination of independent forms to form a complex word)
  20. 20. 1) Affixation Prefixes: ‘a’ is a prefix used with names and kinship terms, showing familiarity E.g: a-màh ‘grandmother’ a- gō ‘brother’ a- yī ‘aunt’ a- faat ‘Fatt’s name in Cantonese’
  21. 21. Suffixes deih is the plural suffix forming pronoun, with the exception of yàhn. Ngóh –deih I + deih = ‘we’ Léih – deih You + deih = ‘you’ (plural) kéuih - deih he/she/it + deih = ‘they’ yàhn -----deih person + deih = ‘people’ or person yàhn deih can be singular
  22. 22. Fa – verbal suffix, forms verbs from nouns and adjectives Fa with nouns: • Dihnlóuh- fa Computer + fa (ize) = ‘computerize’ • Fa with adjectives Yihndoih – fa Modern + fa (ify) = ‘ modernize’
  23. 23. 2) Reduplication – the doubling of a word or syllable, many word classes can be reduplicated sòh – silly (adj) Sòh + só (reduplicate) + déi = ‘rather silly’ Yī- aunt (noun) Yī + yī (reduplicate) = ‘auntie’ (usually in baby talk) Sīk – know (verb) Sīk + sīk (reduplicate) + déi = ‘to know a little
  24. 24. • Reduplication can occur in onomatopoeic, often with tone change of the second syllable expressions • Gohk Gohk + gók (reduplicated) + sēng knock + knock + sound ‘knocking sound’
  25. 25. 3) Compounding The combination of two or more independent morphemes to form a single new word, the meaning often being not predictable.
  26. 26. Compound nouns: • Jáu – dim Wine-shop ‘hotel’ Compound Verbs: jáu- tòhng Leave- lesson ‘skip classes’ hōi - dōu open - knife ‘carry out an operation’
  27. 27. Compound adjectives a) Adjective + noun = adjective hāk (black) + sām (heart) = malicious b) Adjective gōu (high) + adjective = adjective + sām (deep) = profound
  28. 28. Parts of speech • The noun Phrase • Consists of a noun and those items which change or accompany it • Order of the noun phrase: demonstrative- numeral-classifieradjective-(ge) – noun ge- linking particle
  29. 29. Definiteness and demonstratives • Cantonese has no articles having the equal meaning of ‘a’ or ‘the’ • ‘yāt’ is used as an indefinte article, refers to an indefinte object or person • E.g: yāt ga chē one- CL- car (CL – classifer)
  30. 30. Demonstratives ‘nī’ and ‘gó’ • ‘nī’ – ‘this’ and ‘gó’- that • E.gs: nī – go - leuhsī this – Cl – lawyer ‘gó’ – deui – fūfúh that – CL- couple • Both can be used to refer to time • Other examples of demonstratives eg: dī (yàhn), tìuh (yú).
  31. 31. Classifers – measure words ‘jek’ and ‘ga’– follows a numeral or quantifier E.g : léuhng –jek- dáan two - CL- eggs nī - ga – chē this – CL- car
  32. 32. More classifiers… • Collective classifiers ( similar to English collective nouns) E.gs: bāan – group/bunch nī bāan yàhn – this group of people
  33. 33. Container classifiers – denote commodities and products eg: food and drinks. Būi – cup eg: bei ngóh būi chàh ‘give me a cup of tea’ Generic classifiers- means ‘types’ and ‘kinds’ Júng – ‘kind’ eg: nī júhng fā this kind of flower
  34. 34. The Verb phrase • Types of verbs • Copular verb : haih - ‘be’ • Stative verb: jūngyi – ‘like’, sīk‘know’ • Action verbs: jouh- ‘do’, heui- ‘go” • Auxiliary verb: wúih –’will/would’
  35. 35. Copula verb: haih – ‘be’ (am,are,were) Main function is to join two noun phrases together Eg: gó dī yàhn haih ngóh ge pàhngyáuh that CL people are my LP friend. In most cases, haih can be ommited. Eg: Nī bun syū (haih) ngóh ge. This CL book (is) my LP
  36. 36. Serial Verb construction in verb phrases A serial verb construction is one of the most prominent feature in Cantonese, it refers to a concentration of verbs This resembles constructions like “come eat with me”, “go catch a movie” in English.
  37. 37. Examples of serial verbs…. Ngóh heui tái hei I go watch show. ‘ I go and watch a show.’ Kéuideih yuhng dī chín heui máih láu. They use CL money go buy flat. ‘They are buying the flat with the money.” Serial verb constructions express many relationships which are expressed by prepositions in English.
  38. 38. Adjectives Adjectives are usually preceded by hóu – ‘very’ Eg: hóu sau (thin), hóu gēng (afraid) Adjectives may undergo reduplication, modifying their meaning Eg: gōu-gōu-sau-sau (tall and thin) Adjectives may take comparative constructions such as dī and gwo Eg: Nīdouh jihng dī here quiet a-bit
  39. 39. Modification of adjectives Géi – ‘quite’ eg: géi chūngmìhng ‘quite smart’ Fēisèuhng – ‘extremely’ Gam- ‘so’ eg: gam hou ‘so good’ Adjectives and reduplication: A-B-B Egs: chī- lahp – lahp glue-stick-stick A-B-B form of reduplication typically produces perceptual adjectives, describing how things feel, look or smell.
  40. 40. Parts of Speech…. Cantonese Verbs and adjectives • Hard to differentiate between them in certain cases • Verbs and adjectives can behave alike • They can take aspect markers
  41. 41. Example: Béi (v) & sau (adj) béi (v) : give (v) béj (v) + jó = Given sau (adj) : thin (adj) Sau (adj) + jó = have become thinner Jó – Perfective marker (in English, only verbs take aspect markers, not the case in Cantonese)
  42. 42. Cantonese prepositions and verbs Unclear distinction between prepositions and verbs in some cases ‘coverb’- a term for words that have both the characteristics of prepositions and verb E.g of a coverb: tùhng
  43. 43. ‘Tùhng’ in sentence construction Ngóh tùhng ngóh pàhng yáu góng gán wá. ‘ I am talking to/with my friend’ góng gán- talking ‘gán’ – progressive marker Tùhng corresponds to the preposition ‘to/with’ Ngóh tùhng gán ngóh pàhng yáu góng wá ‘ I am talking to/with my friend.’ ‘gan’ – progressive marker in verbs ‘tùhng’ is acting like a verb here because it takes on a progressive marker
  44. 44. WORD ORDER IN CANTONESE
  45. 45. Basic Concepts • Heavy reliance on word order • Basic word order (Subject-VerbObject) • Can be said as a SVO language
  46. 46. Exceptions • Deviation from the SVO order • • • • A) Subject-Object-Verb order B) Subject-Verb Inversion C) Right Dislocation D) Topicalization
  47. 47. S-0-V Word Order • Ex: Ngóh Yīnggwok meih heui-gwo I England havent go S O V P -> I havent been to England -> P: Perfective Aspect Marker
  48. 48. Subject-Verb Inversion • Subject appears after the verb • Happens to certain intransitive verbs • Ex: Gāmyaht làih-jó yāt go yàhn Today come P one C person InV S -> -> A person came today P : Perfective Aspect Marker C: Noun Classifier
  49. 49. Right Dislocation • Noun/Pronoun (subject of a clause) • Appearing at the end of a sentence (dislocated position) • Ex: Hóu lēk wo, léih ! So smart P You S -> You are so smart ! -> P: Particle
  50. 50. Topicalization • An important typological feature of Cantonese • Placement of a word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence or clause • Making it the sentence topic • Topic and Comment
  51. 51. Topicalization (Cont’) • Topic -> A word/phrase which the comment says something about -> A word/phrase that explains the spatial and temporal context of the sentence -> Need not be the subject and need not have any grammatical relation to the comment
  52. 52. Topicalization (Cont’) • Chao (1968) • Chinese sentence structure consists not of subject-predicate , but of topiccomment • Topic-Comment : The approach to study Cantonese syntax
  53. 53. Topicalization (Cont’) • • • • Compared to English English :Subject-Predicate Subject- a grammatical requirement “It” – dummy subject is used when the notional subject is absent • “It is forbidden to smoke”
  54. 54. Topicalization (Cont’) • In Cantonese , many sentences lack an overt subject and it is still grammatical • No dummy subject is used when the notional subject is absent
  55. 55. Topicalization (Cont’) • Yìhgā ge tīnhei yùhngyih sēung-fūng now P weather easy catch a cold -> It’s easy to catch a cold in this weather -> P: Particle
  56. 56. Topicalization (Cont’) • Yìhgā ge tīnhei yùhngyih sēung-fūng now P weather easy catch a cold (It’s easy to catch a cold in this weather) -> “Yìhgā ge tīnhei ” -> this weather -> It is not the subject of any action -> It is rather a topic that indicates the circumstance (this weather) and sets a context for the comment -> There is no overt subject in the sentence
  57. 57. Conclusion •Use by non-native speakers Speculation: more interaction between mandarin and Cantonese Due to increasing popularity of films, songs,etc produced in Hong Kong
  58. 58. • Presence of Mandarin and English influence, eg, ‘fēi’(ticket) came from ‘fare’ in English Constantly evolving Cantonese to accommodate global terms, so as to become a ‘global’ language English of Cantonese native speakers following intonation and stress of Cantonese
  59. 59. Ending note http://members.tripod.com/~DorothyMa/index2.html

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