Lowlands-L Anniversary Celebration

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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...

粵語 • 廣東話 • Yuhtyúh • Gwóngdūngwah

Street scene in Hong Kong
Hēunggóng (Mandarin Xiānggǎng), “Fragrant
Harbor”—Hong Kong, a commercial powerhouse
in which Cantonese culture accommodates the
demands of the 21st century—mainstay of the
Cantonese language with influences far beyond ...
Will return to China weaken Cantonese power?

Language information: Used in Hong Kong, Macau and throughout Guangdong province in China, Cantonese is a particularly widespread language among long-established Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, Australia, the Americas, Europe, New Zealand and parts of Africa. Many Cantonese speakers, though outnumbered by Mandarin speakers, are among more recent immigrants in overseas locations. In Hong Kong, most speakers of other Chinese varieties (such as Shanghainese and other Wu varieties, as well as Hakka) and also some non-Chinese residents use Cantonese as a second language. Similarly, in Guangdong province, native speakers of non-Cantonese Chinese varieties (such as Hakka varieties and Teochew Minnan) and native speakers of non-Chinese languages (such as Miao, She, Yao and Zhuang) tend to be able to communicate in Cantonese (and these days in Mandarin as well). In Southeast Asia and in Overseas Chinese communities in which Cantonese is predominant or prestigeous, speakers of other Chinese varieties are usually conversant in Cantonese. Virtually all long-established Chinese communities of Europe are Cantonese-speaking.
Street scene in Hong Kong
A female military general—
Cantonese ”opera” (Yuhtkehk) used to be
important in promoting and standardizing
the Cantonese language. The tradition is
still alive in China, Singapore and
Malaysia, also in the San Francisco
Bay Area, USA.
     Long-time colonial separation of Hong Kong and Macau from the rest of China in conjunction with the commercial power of Hong Kong as a tax-free port has afforded Cantonese to excert influence far beyond that of any other Chinese language other than Mandarin. It is to be seen if this strong position can be maintained now that Hong Kong and Macau have been passed from British and Portuguese power back to China. Their special states within China favors continuation of Cantonese domination, but already the study of Mandarin as a second or third language is on the increase, while before the poltical change few Hong Kong citizens were interested in it.
     While non-Mandarin Chinese languages tend to be relegated to non-public and non-official function in Mainland China and Taiwan, Cantonese predominates in all spheres in Hong Kong and in Cantonese-dominated Overseas Chinese communities. This includes Cantonese predominance in education and in the electronic media. The written media tend to use the usual Mandarin-based Standard Written Chinese, but Cantonese speakers pronounce the texts in Cantonese.
     Cantonese can be written. Numerous Latin-script-based orthographies (some of which we are displaying here) have been created for learners and researchers. Cantonese-specific writing with the Chinese script, for which a number of Cantonese-specific characters have been created, are mostly used in direct quotes in Hong Kong literature, traditionally also for Cantonese stage plays (including Chinese “opera”). However, this sort of writing is in most circles considered inferior. As a result, people speak Cantonese but write in a Mandarin-based fashion (unless they use Classical Chinese), though they pronounce the texts in Cantonese rather than in Mandarin.
     Generally speaking, Cantonese is phonologically more conservative than is Mandarin. For example, it retains the final (unreleased) stops -p, -t and -k, which in Mandarin have disappeared (in a few of them retained as a glottal stop). Cantonese has seven tones (as shown in our transliterations), some “only” six, such as the Hong Kong dialect in which the high even tone (¯) and the high falling tone (`) have become one. Hong Kong’s far-reaching influences tend to cause ALL languages and dialects are beautiful, precious gifts. So cherish yours and others! Share them with the world!Hong Kong Cantonese features (or features that are common to Hong Kong Cantonese and related dialects) to spread farther afield. The merging of the above-mentioned two tones is a phonological example; the merging of l- and n- to l- is another one. In our presentation, for instance, the words néih ‘you’ and léih ‘care’ are pronounced identically as léih. Many Cantonese speakers carry this feature over to their pronunciation of English (e.g. Chila ‘China’). In the area of idiom, the spread of casual Cantonese (“Cantonese slang”) expressions is mostly due to the influences of the Hong Kong entertainment industry with its common fare of action movies about martial arts and gangster warfare.

[Click here to read about Chinese in general.]

Genealogy: Sino-Tibetan > Chinese (Sinitic)

Historical Lowlands language contacts: English

    Click to open the translations: [Cantonese] Click here for different versions. >

Author: Reinhard F. Hahn

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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