Hong Kong Cantonese
Hong Kong Cantonese (Chinese: 香港粵語) is a dialect of the Cantonese language commonly spoken in Hong Kong, as well as Macau. Although the Hong Kong people largely identify this variant of Chinese with the term "Cantonese" (廣東話), a variety of publications in Mainland China describe the variant as Hong Kong speech (香港話).
|Hong Kong Cantonese|
|香港粵語; 港式廣東話; 香港話|
|Native to||Hong Kong, Macau and some Overseas Communities|
|Region||Pearl River Delta|
|Ethnicity||Hong Kong people|
Official language in
| Hong Kong|
|Regulated by||Official Language Division |
Civil Service Bureau
Government of Hong Kong
|Hong Kong-style Cantonese|
|Hong Kong-Guangdong dialect|
|Hong Kong-Guangzhou dialect|
There are slight differences between the pronunciation used in Hong Kong Cantonese and that of the Cantonese spoken in the neighbouring Chinese province of Guangdong, where Cantonese (based on the Guangzhou dialect) is a main lingua franca.
Over the years, Hong Kong Cantonese has also absorbed foreign terminology and developed a large set of Hong Kong-specific terms. These differences from the Guangzhou dialect are the result of British rule between 1841 and 1997, as well as the closure of the Hong Kong–China border immediately after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Before the arrival of British settlers in 1842, the inhabitants of Hong Kong mainly spoke the Dongguan-Bao'an (Tungkun–Po'on) and Tanka dialects of Yue, as well as Hakka and Teochew. These languages and dialects are all remarkably different from Guangzhou Cantonese.
After the British acquired Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories from the Qing between 1841 (officially 1842) and 1898, large numbers[quantify] of merchants and workers came to Hong Kong from the city of Canton, the main center of Cantonese. Cantonese became the dominant spoken language in Hong Kong. The frequent migration between Hong Kong and mainland Cantonese-speaking areas did not cease up until 1949, when the Communists took over Mainland China. During this period, the Cantonese spoken in Hong Kong was very similar to that in Canton.
In 1949, the year that the People's Republic of China was established, Hong Kong saw a large influx of refugees from different areas of mainland China. The Hong Kong Government closed the border to halt the massive influx, but illegal immigration from Mainland China into Hong Kong continued. Because of this, the correspondence between language and ethnicity may generally be true though not absolute, as many Chinese who speak Hong Kong Cantonese may come from other areas of China, especially Shanghai or non-Cantonese regions of Guangdong where Hakka and Teochew prevail.
Movement, communication and relations between Hong Kong and mainland China became very limited, and consequently the evolution of Cantonese in Hong Kong diverged from that of Guangzhou. In Mainland China, the use of Mandarin as the language of official use and education was enforced. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is the medium of instruction in schools, along with written English and written Chinese.
And because of the long exposure to English during the colonial period, large number of English words were loaned into Hong Kong Cantonese, e.g. "巴士" (/páːsǐː/), literally, "bus". Hong Kong people even started to calque English constructions, for example, "噉 (咁) 都唔 make sense" (literally, "it still does not make sense."). Therefore, the vocabularies of Cantonese in Mainland China and Hong Kong substantially differed.
Moreover, the pronunciation of Cantonese changed while the change either did not occur in mainland China or took place much slower. For example, merging of initial /n/ into /l/ and the deletion of /ŋ/ were observed. Due to the limited communication between Hong Kong and mainland China, these changes only had a limited effect in mainland China at that time. As a result, the pronunciation of Cantonese between Hong Kong and mainland China varied, and so native speakers may note the difference when listening to Hong Kong Cantonese and mainland China Cantonese.
Hong Kong-based Cantonese can be found in Hong Kong popular culture such as Hong Kong films and Hong Kong pop music (Cantopop). Hong Kong people who have emigrated to other countries have brought Hong Kong Cantonese to other parts of the world.
In modern-day Hong Kong, many native speakers are unable to distinguish between certain phoneme pairs, causing them to merge one sound into another. Although this is often considered substandard and is frequently denounced as "lazy sound" (懶音), the phenomenon is becoming more widespread and is influencing other Cantonese-speaking regions. Contrary to popular opinion, some of these changes are not recent. The loss of the velar nasal (/ŋ/) was documented by Williams (1856), and the substitution of the liquid nasal (/l/) for the nasal initial (/n/) was documented by Cowles (1914).
List of observed shifts:
- Merging of /n/ initial into /l/ initial.
- Merging of /ŋ/ initial into null initial.
- Merging of /kʷ/ and /kʷʰ/ initials into /k/ and /kʰ/ when followed by /ɔː/. Note that /ʷ/ is the only glide (介音) in Cantonese.
- Merging of /ŋ/ and /k/ codas into /n/ and /t/ codas respectively, eliminating contrast between these pairs of finals (except after /e/ and /o/): /aːn/-/aːŋ/, /aːt/-/aːk/, /ɐn/-/ɐŋ/, /ɐt/-/ɐk/, /ɔːn/-/ɔːŋ/ and /ɔːt/-/ɔːk/.
- Merging of the two syllabic nasals, /ŋ̩/ into /m̩/, eliminating the contrast of sounds between 吳 (surname Ng) and 唔 (not).
- Merging of the rising tones (陰上 2nd and 陽上 5th).
Today in Hong Kong, people still make an effort to avoid these sound merges in serious broadcasts and in education. Older people often do not exhibit these shifts in their speech, but some do. With the sound changes, the name of Hong Kong's Hang Seng Bank (香港恆生銀行), /hœ́ːŋ kɔ̌ːŋ hɐ̏ŋ sɐ́ŋ ŋɐ̏n hɔ̏ːŋ/, becomes /hœ́ːn kɔ̌ːn hɐ̏n sɐ́n ɐ̏n hɔ̏ːn/, sounding like Hon' Kon' itchy body (痕身 /hɐ̏n sɐ́n/) 'un cold (UN寒 /ɐ̏n hɔ̏ːn/) . The name of Cantonese itself (廣東話, "Guangdong speech") would be /kʷɔ̌ːŋ tʊ́ŋ wǎː/ without the merger, whereas /kɔ̌ːŋ tʊ́ŋ wǎː/ (sounding like "講東話": "speak eastern speech") and /kɔ̌ːn tʊ́ŋ wǎː/ (sounding like "趕東話" : "chase away eastern speech") are overwhelmingly popular.
The shift affects the way some Hong Kong people speak other languages as well. This is especially evident in the pronunciation of certain English names: "Nicole" pronounce [lekˈkou̯], "Nancy" pronounce [ˈlɛnsi] etc. A very common example of the mixing of (/n/) and (/l/) is that of the word 你, meaning "you". Even though the standard pronunciation should be (/nei/), the word is often pronounced (/lei/), which is the surname 李, or the word 理, meaning theory. The merger of (/n/) and (/l/) also affects the choice of characters when the Cantonese media transliterates foreign names.
Prescriptivists who try to correct these "lazy sounds" often end up introducing hypercorrections. For instance, while attempting to ensure that people pronounce the initial /ŋ/, they may introduce it into words which have historically had a null-initial. One common example is that of the word 愛, meaning "love". Even though the standard pronunciation would be /ɔ̄ːi/, but the word is often pronounced /ŋɔ̄ːi/.
Unique phrases and expressionsEdit
Due to Hong Kong's unique historical background, Hong Kong Cantonese has evolved differently from the Mandarin spoken in China, Taiwan and Singapore over the years. Hong Kong Cantonese has developed a number of phrases and expressions that are unique to the context of Hong Kong. These phrases and expressions usually make references to specific things that can only be found in Hong Kong or specific incidents that happened in Hong Kong. Here are a few examples:
|Chinese characters||Jyutping||literal meaning||actual meaning|
|食皇家飯||sik6 wong4 gaa1 faan6||eat Royal meal||being incarcerated|
|話知你九七||waa6 zi1 nei5 gau2 cat1||Who cares about your 1997?||Who cares?|
Here, the former refers to Hong Kong's status as a British colony, where prisoners are detained on behalf of the Sovereign, and is similar to the English colloquial expression "guest of Her Majesty" / "live at Her Majesty's pleasure". The latter refers to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The situations alluded to are both unique to Hong Kong.
Life in Hong Kong is characterised by the blending of Asian (southern Chinese in particular) and Western cultures, as well as the city's position as a major international business centre. In turn, Hong Kong influences have also spread widely into other cultures. As a result, a large number of loanwords are created in Hong Kong and then exported to Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan. Some of the loanwords have become even more popular than their Chinese counterparts, in Hong Kong as well as in their destination cultures.
Selected loanwords are shown below.
& Other Definitions
|爹地/花打||de1 di4||daddy (father)||爹地||爹地|
|媽咪/媽打||maa1 mi4||mammy (mother)||妈咪||媽咪|
(show her a little) tender(ness)
|Part士||Part si2||(auto/computer/machinery) parts||部件||部件|
|打卡||daa2 kaat1||punch card||打卡||打卡|
He's a professional
|OH!||OH! (surprised reaction)||噢!||噢!|
|柲撈||bei3 laau1||(earn extra) payroll||賺外快||賺外快|
|Dump(垃圾)||dump (garbage into dumpster)
dumped by boy-/girl-friend
|落狗屎||lok6 gau2 si2||Raining cats and dogs||下大雨||下大雨|
|(今日)倒水||dou2 seoi2||pouring (water)
pour a cup of water
|威士忌||wai1 si2 gei6||whisky||威士忌||威士忌|
|巴閉||baa1 bai3||bapre (ya whatever, stop showing-off!)||了不起||了不起|
|士巴拿||si6 baa1 naa4||spanner (wrench)||扳手||扳手|
("租车" = rental car)
|哥士的(蘇打)||go1 si2 dik1||caustic soda||氢氧化钠||氫氧化鈉|
|士多啤梨||si6 do1 be1 lei2||strawberry||草莓||草莓|
|車厘子||ce1 lei4 zi2||cherry||樱桃||櫻桃|
|吉士||gat1 si2||guts (courage)
|(俾)Face士||fei1 si2||face (dignity)
||root beer: 根啤酒
|root beer: 沙士|
|(奥士)古老(方法)||gu2 lou5||old school||古老||古老|
|朱古力||zyu1 gu1 lik1||chocolate||巧克力||巧克力|
|三文治||saam1 man4 zi6||sandwich||三文治
("三明治" is incorrect)
("三明治" is incorrect)
|三文魚||saam1 man4 jyu2||salmon||沙门鱼||沙門魚|
|沙丁魚||saa1 ding1 jyu2||sardine||沙丁鱼||沙丁魚|
|吞拿魚||tan1 naa4 jyu2||tuna||金枪鱼||金槍魚|
|咖啡因||gaa3 fe1 jan1||caffeine||咖啡因||咖啡因|
|可卡因||ho2 kaa1 jan1||cocaine||可卡因||可卡因|
|可口可樂||ho2 hau2 ho2 lok6||Coca-Cola||可口可乐||可口可樂|
|卡路里||kaa1 lou6 lei5||calorie||卡路里||卡路里|
|維他命||wai4 taa1 ming6||vitamin||维他命||維他命|
|比堅尼||bei2 gin1 nei4||bikini||比基尼||比基尼|
|現梳||jin3 so1||insure (insurance)||保险||保險|
|威化(餅)||wai1 faa4||wafer biscuit
||wafer biscuit: 感化饼干
wafer (electronics): 晶圆
|wafer biscuit: 感化餅乾|
wafer (electronics): 晶圓
|蛇gweh||se4 gweh1||scared (of)||害怕||害怕|
|肥佬||fei4 lou2||fail (failure)||失败||失敗|
|馬賽克||maa5 coi3 hak1||mosaic||马赛克||馬賽克|
|摩托車||mo1 tok3 ce1||motorcycle||摩托车||摩托車|
|泊車||paak3 ce1||to park||泊车||泊車|
|褒呔||bou1 taai1||bow tie||领结||領結|
|蹦極跳||bang1 gik6||bungee jumping||蹦极跳||蹦極跳|
|遊艇||jau4 teng5||yachting (yacht)||游艇||遊艇|
|高爾夫球||gou1 ji5 fu1||golf||高尔夫球||高爾夫球|
|高歷||gou1 lik6||qualification (qualify; have a say)
|呼啦圈||fu1 laa1 hyun1||hula hoop||呼啦圈||呼啦圈|
|百家利||baak3 gaa1 lei6||broccoli||西兰花||西蘭花|
|百家樂||baak3 gaa1 ngok6||Baccarat (card game)||百家乐||百家樂|
|家年華||gaa1 nin4 waa4||carnival||家年华||家年華|
|俱樂部||keoi1 lok6 bou6||club||俱乐部||俱樂部|
|尼古丁||nei4 gu2 ding1||nicotine||尼古丁||尼古丁|
|菲林||fei1 lam2||photographic film||㬵卷||膠卷|
|(俾)Cash殊||ke1 syu4||(pay by) cash||(付)现金||(付)現金|
|指出||zi2 ceot1||point out
We're not pointing fingers at anyone
|Chinese Characters||Jyutping||French||English||Mainland Chinese
|梳乎厘||so1 fu4 lei4||soufflé||soufflé||梳芙厘||舒芙蕾|
|Chinese Characters||Jyutping||Japanese||Japanese Rōmaji||English||Mainland Chinese
|卡拉OK||kaa1 laa1 ou1 kei1||カラオケ||karaoke||karaoke||卡拉OK||卡拉OK|
|老世||lou5 sai3||世帯主||setainushi||chief (CEO)
the Head (of a company)
|干爸爹||gaan1 baa1 de1||頑張って||ganbatte||Keep up! (studying)
Come on! (cheering)
|放題||fong3 tai4||食べ放題||tabe hōdai||buffet||布斐||布斐|
|add oil||加油||gaa1 yau2|
|bok choy||白菜||baak6 coi3|
|char siu||叉燒||caa1 siu1|
|chop chop (hurry up)||速速||chuk1 chuk1|
|chop suey||(炒)雜碎||zaap6 seoi3|
|chow mein||炒麵||caau2 min6|
|choy sum||菜心||coi3 sam1|
|dim sum||點心||dim2 sam1|
|feng shui||風水||fung1 seoi2|
|gai lan||芥蘭||gaai3 laan2|
|har gow||蝦餃||haa1 gaau2|
|hoisin sauce||海鮮醬||hoi2 sin1 zoeng3|
|kung fu||功夫||gung1 fu1|
|Kung Pao chicken||宮保雞丁||gung1 bou2 gai1 ding1|
|lo mein||撈麵||lou1 min6|
|long time no see||好耐冇見||hou2 noi6 mou5 gin3|
|Maotai||茅台酒||maau4 toi1 zau2|
|Moo shu pork||木須肉||muk6 seoi1 juk6|
|nunchaku||兩節棍||loeng5 zit3 gwan3|
|Pai gow||排九||paai4 gau2|
|shu mai||燒賣||siu1 maai6|
|tai chi||太極拳||taai3 gik6|
|Tsingtao beer||青島啤酒||cing1 dou2 be1 zau2|
|yin and yang||陰陽||jam1 joeng4|
|yum cha||飲茶||jam2 caa4|
Into Mainland Chinese MandarinEdit
|买单||埋單||maai4 daan1||(Can we please have the) bill?||结账|
|搭档||拍檔||paak3 dong3||partner||伙伴 (in ownership and business)|
舞伴 (in dancing)
|打的||搭的士||daap3 dik1 si2||to ride a taxi||乘出租车|
|无厘头||無釐頭, corruption of 無來頭||mou4 lei4 tau4||nonsensical humour (see mo lei tau)
newbie who knows nothing
|亮仔/靓仔||靚仔||leng3 zai2||handsome boy||帅哥儿|
哥们 (in China only)
|很正||好正||hou2 zeng3||(colloquial) awesome; perfect; just right||很棒|
|搞掂/搞定||搞掂||gaau2 dim6||Is it done yet? (It's) Done!
It has been taken care of!
Into Taiwanese MandarinEdit
|Taiwanese Mandarin||Hanyu Pinyin||Cantonese||Jyutping||English|
|(猴)塞雷||(hóu) sāiléi||(好)犀利||hou2 sai1 lei6||(very) impressive|
|Hold住||hòu zhù||Hold住||hou1 jyu6||hold on|
hang tight (hang in there)
|Japanese Kana (Kanji)||Japanese Rōmaji||Chinese Characters||Jyutping||English|
|ヤムチャ (飲茶)||yamucha||飲茶||jam2 caa4||yum cha|
|チャーシュー (叉焼)||chāshū||叉燒||caa1 siu1||char siu|
|チャーハン (炒飯)||chāhan||炒飯||caau2 faan6||fried rice|
Code-switching and loanword adaptationEdit
Hong Kong Cantonese has a high number of foreign loanwords. Sometimes, the part of speech of the incorporated words are also changed, like "佢地好friend", translated into English as "they are very 'friend'", means "they are good friends". The word "friend" is changed from a noun into an adjective. In some examples, some new meanings of English words are even created. For example, "至yeah", literally "the most yeah", means "the trendiest". Originally, "yeah" means "yes/okay" in English, but it means "trendy" when being incorporated into Hong Kong Cantonese (see also "yeah baby" and "aww yeah").
Semantic change is common in loanwords; when foreign words are borrowed into Cantonese, polysyllabic words and monosyllabic words tend to become disyllabic, and the second syllable is in the Upper Rising tone (the second tone). For example, "kon1 si2" (coins), "sek6 kiu1" (security) and "ka1 si2" (cast). A few polysyllabic words become monosyllabic though, like "mon1" (monitor), literally means computer monitor. And some new Cantonese lexical items are created according to the morphology of Cantonese. For example, "laai1 記" from the word "library". Most of the disyllabic words and some of the monosyllabic words are incorporated as their original pronunciation, with some minor changes according to the Cantonese phonotactics.
Incorporating words from foreign languages into Cantonese is also acceptable by most Cantonese speakers. Hong Kong Cantonese speakers frequently code-mix although they can distinguish foreign words from Cantonese ones. For instance, "噉都唔 make sense", literally means "that doesn't make sense". After a Cantonese speaker decides to code-mix a foreign word in a Cantonese sentence, syntactical rules of Cantonese will be followed. For instance, "sure" (肯定) can be used like "你 su1 唔 su1 aa3?" (are you sure?) as if it were its Cantonese counterpart "你肯唔肯定?", using the A-not-A question construction.
In some circumstances, code-mixing is preferable because it can simplify sentences. An excellent example (though dated) of the convenience and efficiency of such mixing is "打 collect call" replacing "打一個由對方付款嘅長途電話", i.e. 13 syllables reduced to four.
- "Official Language Division, Civil Service Bureau, Government of Hong Kong". Government of Hong Kong. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- To, Carol K. S.; Mcleod, Sharynne; Cheung, Pamela S. P. (2015). "Phonetic variations and sound changes in Hong Kong Cantonese: diachronic review, synchronic study and implications for speech sound assessment". Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics. 29 (5): 333–353. doi:10.3109/02699206.2014.1003329. PMID 25651195.
- Bauer, Robert S.; Cheung, Kwan-hin; Cheung, Pak-man (2003). "Variation and merger of the rising tones in Hong Kong Cantonese". Language Variation and Change. 15 (2): 211–225. doi:10.1017/S0954394503152039. hdl:10397/7632.
- Together Learn Cantonese, see middle section.
- "A list compiled by lbsun". Archived from the original on 20 August 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2006.
- "你"Hold住"没"Hold住"?". 学生导报 中职周刊. Archived from the original on 23 October 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
- "Info" (PDF). www.patrickchu.net.