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Cantonese tones: any similarity with mandarin and vietnamese


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Hi all,

I'm trying to learn the pronunciation of cantonese tones, and I wonder whether my knowledge of vietnamese and mandarin tones could help :-?

I'm not talking about lexical correspondences between the three languages or rules to infer tones from one to another, but really about phonetics similarities.

Do viet/canto or mandarin/canto speakers have any clue about this ?

My first, rough impression is as follows (using the Yale system with 6 tones for cantonese):

ma- sounds like mandarin ma1 or vietnamese ma,

mah` sounds a little bit like vietnamese mà,

ma' sounds like mandarin ma2 and southern vietnamese ma?,

mah' sounds like mandarin ma3 and northern vietnamese ma? or southern vietnamese ma. (dau nang),

ma and mah are level tones similar to ma- (with lower pitches), but somehow mah seems to be close to vietnamese ma` as well :shock: (actually I have difficulties to distinguish mah` from mah).

Thanks for your help !

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A word of advice, it's a trap! Haha, that was my mistakes indeed, I always tried to make the comparison of the tones, whenever I saw "khong dau" I tried to match it to the "ma" (question marker) in Cantonese... it works sometimes, but somehow I definitely missed out some difference between other tones.

Anyway, here's a reference for you only... I hope I won't drag you to another trap. :oops:

Mandarin Tone 1 =~ Canton tone 1

Mandarin Tone 2 =~ Canton tone 2

Mandarin Tone 3 =~ Canton tone 4

Mandarin Tone 4 =~~~~ Canton tone 7

Vietnamese khong dau =~ Canton tone 3

Vietnamese dau nang =~ ?

Vietnamese khong hoi =~ ?

Vietnamese khong nga~ Canton tone 5

Vietnamese khong nguyen =~ Canton tone 4

Vietnamese khong sach =~ Canton tone 7

Again, my advice, this is a trap!! Haha. Take care!

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Vietnamese khong hoi

Vietnamese khong nga

Vietnamese khong nguyen

Vietnamese khong sach

I don't know any Cantonese, but I think I can guess the translation of this into Vietnamese :

khong hoi = dấu hỏi

khong nga = dấu ngã

khong nguyen = dấu huyền

khong sach = dấu sắc

... :mrgreen:

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Thank you for your advice.

I know this can be a trap, I will only use this as a starting point.

I think that sounding vietnamese is somehow better than sounding french :wink: ... but you're right I should not forget that this is just an approximation.

Off-topic: pazu, what about thai ? Is it hard to learn ?

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I just copied and paste the first part and didn't notice that I copied the wrong one. Haha. Anyway, thanks nnt for correcting the names of two tones, it's pretty stupid for me to make this mistake. :oops:

And about Thai, only 2 weeks so far so nothing much I can tell you right now, the alphabets are very mind-consuming though.

I'm getting confused about Viet and Thai already, in some situations. One day I went to the IT City, the girl told me to go to "di no SAU", I suddenly asked her, "is it shop number 6?"....................................... I was confused, and she was confused by me too... haha.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Now I think I can already read the Thai alphabets without knowing the meaning, but the process is too slow. I went to Ayuthaya by bike today (from Bangkok), and I always wondered what was written on the signpost, just before I figured out the first one or two parts... I'm gone already.

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