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Harpoon

Is this true?

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Altair
What happens without the extensive training? If they are so similar why is extensive training needed?

The issue here is mostly with function words (虚词). For example, Cantonese uses different words for the concepts expressed in Mandarin by 在 zai4, 是 shi4, 的 de, verb- 了 , 不 bu4, 他 ta1, 们 men, 那儿 nar3, 那 na4/nei4, 这 zhe4, 和 he2 (meaning "and"), 谁 shei2, 什么 shen2 ma, and 什么时候 shen2 ma shi2 hou. If an uneducated person listens to a reading of text laced with these words in it, the thread of meaning will be lost, even though many, many other words will be recognized without difficulty. On the other hand, educated speakers who have grown up with such words in their schooling can apparently deal with hearing and understanding these words with little difficulty.

There is also a difference in daily vocabulary that I would guess is around 20%. I would guess that for people with schooling, this ends up feeling trivial, almost like the difference between American and British English, including pop slang. For uneducated people, I would guess that 20% is a significant barrier, since within this 20% are many common words. Examples of Mandarin words I do not think are used in daily Cantonese (but perhaps in compounds derived from Mandarin) are: 看 kan4 (look/read), 给 gei3 (give), 椅子 yi3 zi (chair), 桌子 zhuo1 zi (table), 脸子 lian3 zi (?), 衣服 yi1 fu (?), 一点 (as opposed to 少少), 便宜 pian2 yi, and 事情 shi4 qing.

In addition to those differences in vocabulary, there are many usage patterns where the Mandarin structure is grammatical and the vocabulary exists in Cantonese, but where the pattern is not really used, for example: "I can speak Cantonese" is typically said as 我识讲广东话 [in Mandarin, this is wo3 shi2 jiang3 guang3 dong1 hua4]. I am not sure if it is really acceptable to use either 会 hui4 or 说 shuo in this pattern, although the words seem to exist in daily Cantonese.

I have no real conversational ability in Cantonese, but am familiar with the basic grammar. I also have decent fluency in French, Spanish, and some Portuguese and have a lot of familiarity with situations where Spanish and Portuguese speakers attempt to communicate with each other while speaking their own languages. The difference between spoken Cantonese and spoken Mandarin is much greater than that between Spanish and Portuguese (or Spanish and Catalan, Russian and Polish (?), Swedish and Danish, or Dutch and German). I would estimate that they are even further apart than French and Spanish (or French and Italian, Latin and any Romance language, or Hebrew and Arabic, ) and as extreme as the differences between English and Swedish or between English and Dutch. As Gato mentions, communication across the barrier is close to zero, with only the occasional word here or there tentatively recognizable in context.

If we talk about written Cantonese and written Mandarin, the degree of comprehension is a completely different matter. It is comparable to Spanish and Portuguese (Spanish and Italian, Swedish/Norwegian and Danish, or perhaps Polish and Czech (?) or Russian and Ukranian (?). Someone with no previous exposure to the other language can actually decode a fair amount of text and can read for substance. Reading fluency would, however, require some minimal training in recognizing and understanding function words. Word order differences would be of trivial importance. Differing vocabulary would be important for text dealing with family life and daily activity, but unimportant for scientific or technical reading. An important point to note is that, unlike in the examples I cite for other languages, written Cantonese and Mandarin share the exact same "spelling" for their common words, because they use characters. This makes recognizing common vocabulary a guaranteed process.

Many posters have also made the excellent point about correspondences between Cantonese and Mandarin. This point should not be lost in evaluating what I have said above. Just as French and Spanish speakers tend to profess little difficulty in learning each other's languages, compared with English, Mandarin and Cantonese speakers share a great deal of common structure and vocabulary that can be accessed once the transformational rules are figured out. My experience in studying Cantonese is that almost all the grammar (95%) consists of things I have run across before in Mandarin. The few totally new points of grammar are trivial. The real challenge comes in learning a very different sound system, differing function words, general vocabulary, and a limited number of particles that have no Mandarin equivalents.

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Altair

Those of you familiar with the phenomenon of Cantopop might be interested in the following quotes form this site .

Cantopop lyrics

It is interesting to note that Cantopop established a tradition of writing lyrics in Standard Modern Chinese (with standard Mandarin syntax) but pronounced in Cantonese. Fewer songs contain Classical Chinese (Wenyan) lyrics and yet fewer with truly colloquial (and usually comical) Cantonese lyrics. Cantopop maintains the Cantonese Opera tradition of matching the musical notes with tones in the Cantonese language. More singers since the 80s depart from traditional Cantonese Opera vocalization in favor of Western techniques (though big names like Roman stayed true to traditional techniques).

Samuel Hui (許冠傑) started out as a Western musician. Several of his box office hit (starting in 1974) brought the Cantonese movie and Cantopop to the next level of popularity. His songs, written in colloquial Cantonese language, mirrored the life of common Hongkongers. He was not the first one to do so, but he was the first one to do so in the way that his lyrics were acceptable to virtually all classes of Hong Kong people.

Actually, the essence of Cantopop does not only lay in the music, but also in its lyrics. There are two types of lyrics written by songwriters. The first type is the poetic lyrics written in literary or classical Chinese. The formation of lyrics of this type was influenced by the classical Chinese lyrics in traditional Cantonese opera. Songs with literary Chinese were usually used as the theme songs for TV shows about ancient China. The second type is less formal and the lyrics written in colloquial Cantonese, usually for the TV shows filmed under modern contexts.

These quotes suggest that the majority of even "popular" music comes in lyrics that conform to the standard written language or Classical Chinese, rather than colloquial Cantonese that might sound too "coarse" to some listeners.

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Quest
These quotes suggest that the majority of even "popular" music comes in lyrics that conform to the standard written language or Classical Chinese, rather than colloquial Cantonese that might sound too "coarse" to some listeners.

The classical Chinese used is usually semi-classical, and fits rather well into the colloquial language if one were to use it in daily speech. One would feel the "language difference" hearing the standard written language(Mandarin) read aloud in Cantonese, but not so hearing (semi) classical Chinese.

I think any "coarseness" is due to unfamiliarity. They are just not used to hearing colloquial Cantonese "serious" songs.

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zh-laoshi
In my native language Dutch the average person uses between 30,000 and 90,000 words just like an English person..

Actually, any speaker of any language uses an average of 3,000 words a day. Anyone using 30,000 words may use them intheir entire lifetimes, especially in a specialized field. But on a daily basis, it really doesn't go above 3,500.

In a modern Dutch dictionay you can find around about 75,000 to 120,000 words. In total there are some 5 million words in the Dutch language as well as in the English language; that all the words from the Dark Ages up till the present.

But through the course of change over the centuries, we don't use thou, thee, or cometh. We also don't use eyeren (eggs) or windþyrl (window) anymore. Like in Dutch: Waekt want gij en weet niet wat ure den Heere komen sal. So, yes, there are about 5 million words, of which we don't use 4 million of them anymore.

Old English has nothing to do with Modern English.

Yes it does. Modern English still has about 35% of its Old English base. These are the words that are the "glue" to hold the language together. You can speak/read/write your entire life using words of strictly English origin, but you cannot write one paragraph of information using strictly words of non-English origin.

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Harpoon

Okay from Altair's article:

It is interesting to note that Cantopop established a tradition of writing lyrics in Standard Modern Chinese (with standard Mandarin syntax) but pronounced in Cantonese.

This is exactly what I'm talking about (well..what we're talking about now :mrgreen: )

How is this done?

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Dennis

The 90000 words I mentioned are the total words one learns from baby till grown-up.

It includes common words like PERSON, WEATHER but also some uncommon words like RUTHERFORDIUM.

Secondly most people like to think that modern languages are based on old languages and that why you said that Modern English is based on Old English which is not true.

What does an Old English make from words like TEA, PANDA, ELECTRICITY, TELEPHONE and the word TRAIN in the sentence I AM WAITING FOR A TRAIN.

All you can say is that Old English like Modern English uses words form a large vocabulary we now call words from English Language which includes Celtic words which we find in the Old/ Middle Welsh languages and in Modern Welsh and Modern English but not in for example in Modern Dutch.

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Altair
This is exactly what I'm talking about (well..what we're talking about now )

How is this done?

This is done as described above. There is a uniform standard for pronouncing words; however there are two slightly different standards for combining the words into sentences. One standard applies to daily oral interactions; another apparently applies to most Cantopop. If you are a complete illiterate, the second standard would be a little hard to understand; othewise, there is no problem.

From all that's been said, it sounds like Cantonese have less trouble with understanding their written standard, even in spoken form, than educated English speakers have understanding Shakespeare's plays or the text of the U.S. Constitution. Even educated English speakers have sporadic exposure to the type of language in these documents, whereas educated Cantonese would have daily exposure to their written variant over a lifetime.

I am not sure I understand the resistance to this concept. This situation is quite common among world languages, where many dialect speakers use one form of language for daily interaction and another for writing or formal purposes. This is even true of English for many speakers in the Caribbean, West Africa, and isolated parts of Great Britain. The grammar of the daily English used by the majority of speakers in the Caribbean and West Africa is different from standard English, but this is not reflected in written or formal usage.

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gato
From all that's been said, it sounds like Cantonese have less trouble with understanding their written standard, even in spoken form, than educated English speakers have understanding Shakespeare's plays or the text of the U.S. Constitution. Even educated English speakers have sporadic exposure to the type of language in these documents, whereas educated Cantonese would have daily exposure to their written variant over a lifetime.

The key is education. Cantonese speakers, whether in Guangdon or Hong Kong, are taught Mandarin syntax and vocabulary starting in first grade. The same is true for other dialect speakers.

The situation with classical English writing is different. Few teachers teach 16th, 17th century English grammar or spelling rules directly. When you first encounter Shakespeare, maybe in 9th grade, you're expected to figure out the sentence structure on your own, maybe with the help of a vocabularly list and some footnotes. I wonder if this is how they teach classical Chinese in HK and the mainland. Maybe if teachers provided more guidance on Shakespearan grammar and syntax in the classroom, more people would be able to enjoy Shakespeare.

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Harpoon
This is done as described above. There is a uniform standard for pronouncing words; however there are two slightly different standards for combining the words into sentences. One standard applies to daily oral interactions; another apparently applies to most Cantopop. If you are a complete illiterate' date=' the second standard would be a little hard to understand; othewise, there is no problem.

From all that's been said, it sounds like Cantonese have less trouble with understanding their written standard, even in spoken form, than educated English speakers have understanding Shakespeare's plays or the text of the U.S. Constitution. Even educated English speakers have sporadic exposure to the type of language in these documents, whereas educated Cantonese would have daily exposure to their written variant over a lifetime.

I am not sure I understand the resistance to this concept. This situation is quite common among world languages, where many dialect speakers use one form of language for daily interaction and another for writing or formal purposes. This is even true of English for many speakers in the Caribbean, West Africa, and isolated parts of Great Britain. The grammar of the daily English used by the majority of speakers in the Caribbean and West Africa is different from standard English, but this is not reflected in written or formal usage.[/quote']

Can you give me an example (if it's not too much trouble) in which a set of lyrics, with Mandarin syntax and grammar that does not exist in Cantonese, can be read in Cantonese?

And I have a resistance to this since it kind of seperates the speaking and the writing. It seems kind of archaic, a throwback to the times when there was a gap between the language of the poor masses and that of the educated, literate Elite. Who is more likely to become a gifted writer (assuming that the Chinese writing system even allows for "gifted writing")... someone who spends his life speaking and listening to people in one tongue, while switching to another one when he has to read or write, or someone who reads, writes, listens, and speaks all in one language?

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beirne
And I have a resistance to this since it kind of seperates the speaking and the writing. It seems kind of archaic, a throwback to the times when there was a gap between the language of the poor masses and that of the educated, literate Elite. Who is more likely to become a gifted writer (assuming that the Chinese writing system even allows for "gifted writing")... someone who spends his life speaking and listening to people in one tongue, while switching to another one when he has to read or write, or someone who reads, writes, listens, and speaks all in one language?

So are you saying that the reason that written Cantonese is different from spoken is to keep the poor down? Have you considered that there may be other reasons?

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Altair
Can you give me an example (if it's not too much trouble) in which a set of lyrics, with Mandarin syntax and grammar that does not exist in Cantonese, can be read in Cantonese?

All song lyrics can be read with Cantonese pronunciations. Virtually every character in a Chinese dictionary can be pronounced according to Mandarin vocal habits or Cantonese vocal habits. The only difference in what Cantonese do now from what they did for more than 2000 years is align their written syntax and word choice to another model.

If you have RealPlayer, you can go to www.zhongwen.com, find a Mandarin word in the dictionary, and then click on "Canton" in the list at the bottom to be taken to a site that has recordings of the Cantonese equivalent. Just click on the litte icon of a speaker.

And I have a resistance to this since it kind of seperates the speaking and the writing. It seems kind of archaic, a throwback to the times when there was a gap between the language of the poor masses and that of the educated, literate Elite.

As Beirne alludes to, there are other considerations. What other choice do you think would have made sense when Classical Chinese was abandoned?

Also, as I said in my previous post, oral and written dichotomies are quite widespread among world languages. Here are some examples where there are substantial numbers of speakers who must learn a written grammar that is different from they way they speak at home: German, Italian, Swedish, Czech, Greek, Arabic, Tibetan, and Japanese. I have even heard this is true of such a small country as the Netherlands, where friends of mine have claimed difficulty understanding the Dutch spoken in some regions. All of these languages have one or two written standards that everyone conforms to. In most cases this standard corresponds to the syntax and vocabulary of a particular speech community, but in some cases it does not, e.g. Arabic, literary Czech, and literary Greek.

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Quest
Who is more likely to become a gifted writer (assuming that the Chinese writing system even allows for "gifted writing")... someone who spends his life speaking and listening to people in one tongue, while switching to another one when he has to read or write, or someone who reads, writes, listens, and speaks all in one language?

First of all, yes the Chinese writing system does allow for gifted writing. In fact, it is somewhat less rigid compared to English, so there's much room for creative styles. Secondly, as others have repeatedly pointed out, colloquial and literary languages are different in many languages. The way you talk and the way a gifted novelist writes are "probably" as different as Cantonese and Mandarin.

Cantonese and Mandarin share the same script, same root and the majority of their vocabulary and grammar. What a Mandarin speaker learns colloquially in Mandarin, a Cantonese speaker could also learn the same colloquially in Cantonese. Chinese characters enabled "wo shi zhongguoren" and "ngo hai zongguokyun" to be written the same way 我是中国人。

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Altair

For additional information about written Cantonese, those interested may wish to consult this site .

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Harpoon

I'm getting kind of mixed impressions here

taking an excerpt from Altair:

Examples of Mandarin words I do not think are used in daily Cantonese (but perhaps in compounds derived from Mandarin) are: 看 kan4 (look/read)' date=' 给 gei3 (give), 椅子 yi3 zi (chair), 桌子 zhuo1 zi (table), 脸子 lian3 zi (?), 衣服 yi1 fu (?), 一点 (as opposed to 少少), 便宜 pian2 yi, and 事情 shi4 qing.

[/quote']

okay then, here: what if a Cantonese person is dictating Standard Chinese text ("standard" meaning based on Mandarin) and they encounter one of those words or compounds? Do they automatically pause and replace it with the Cantonese equivilant, on the fly?

Chinese characters enabled "wo shi zhongguoren" and "ngo hai zongguokyun" to be written the same way 我是中国人。

the Cantonese of that is apparently pronounced (according to cquicktrans) 我(ngo) 是(si) 中(jung) 国(?) 人(yan)... the ? being because 国 has no Canto pronounciation, so ...?

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skylee
the Cantonese of that is apparently pronounced (according to cquicktrans) 我(ngo) 是(si) 中(jung) 国(?) 人(yan)... the ? being because 国 has no Canto pronounciation, so ...?

This is wrong. 國/国 is pronounced as "gwok3" in Cantonese. All Chinese characters in use have corresponding Cantonese pronunciations. You can find/hear the Cantonese pronunciation of a Chinese character using this tool (which supports traditional characters only) -> http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/lexi-can/.

okay then, here: what if a Cantonese person is dictating Standard Chinese text ("standard" meaning based on Mandarin) and they encounter one of those words or compounds? Do they automatically pause and replace it with the Cantonese equivilant, on the fly?

No. The "Standard Chinese text", which is written in Mandarin, can be read out in either Putonghua or Cantonese (as I said above all Chinese characters in use have corresponding Cantonese pronunciations), and the one who dictates it just writes down the Chinese characters that are read. If it is a dictation, we do not substitute "椅子" with "凳", etc.

Unless a Cantonese speaker intends to write something in Cantonese, he usually writes in Mandarin (i.e. use grammar and terms as in Mandarin).

I am a Cantonese speaker educated and living in Hong Kong. So maybe you can trust me ...

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Harpoon
This is wrong. 國/国 is pronounced as "gwok3" in Cantonese. All Chinese characters in use have corresponding Cantonese pronunciations. You can find/hear the Cantonese pronunciation of a Chinese character using this tool (which supports traditional characters only) -> http://www.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/lexi-can/.

okay thanks

No. The "Standard Chinese text"' date=' which is written in Mandarin, can be read out in either Putonghua or Cantonese (as I said above all Chinese characters in use have corresponding Cantonese pronunciations), and the one who dictates it just writes down the Chinese characters that are read. If it is a dictation, we do not substitute "椅子" with "凳", etc.

Unless a Cantonese speaker intends to write something in Cantonese, he usually writes in Mandarin (i.e. use grammar and terms as in Mandarin).

[/quote']

okay so if you're reading the Mandarin text in Cantonese, what about the differences in grammar and word order between the two languages? Won't the Cantonese sound a litlte bit strange?

and if you missed what Altair said:

Examples of Mandarin words I do not think are used in daily Cantonese (but perhaps in compounds derived from Mandarin) are: 看 kan4 (look/read), 给 gei3 (give), 椅子 yi3 zi (chair), 桌子 zhuo1 zi (table), 脸子 lian3 zi (?), 衣服 yi1 fu (?), 一点 (as opposed to 少少), 便宜 pian2 yi, and 事情 shi4 qing

if one of these is dictated, won't it sound akward? Would it then be obvious that the text was written by a Mandarin person?

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skylee
okay so if you're reading the Mandarin text in Cantonese, what about the differences in grammar and word order between the two languages? Won't the Cantonese sound a litlte bit strange?

Let's use an example. This is from today's yahoo news ->

"終審法院開始聆訊由港府提出的公務員減薪案上訴。港府表示,如果政府敗訴,會發還薪酬給公務員。"

If this passage is read aloud for a dictation exercise, say for students at schools, then each character is to be pronounced in its Cantonese pronunciation and there will be no changes to the words and word order.

If this passage is read by a news anchor on a tv news programme, then he/she will subsititue some of the characters with Cantonese-specific ones to make it sound more lively and Cantonese, like this ->

"終審法院開始聆訊由港府提出公務員減薪案上訴。港府表示,如果政府敗訴,會發還薪酬公務員。"

If this is in a daily conversation, then I will say ->

"終審庭今日開始上訴嘅公務員減薪案。,如果輸咗,會俾番啲人工公務員。"

In general, the more formal the occasion, the more simliar is Cantonese to Mandarin.

if one of these is dictated, won't it sound akward? Would it then be obvious that the text was written by a Mandarin person?

As you said, "Standard Chinese text" is based on Mandarin. So regardless if the writer is Cantonese, or Shanghainese, or from Hainan or Sichuan, when he/she writes in "Standard Chinese", he/she is supposed to write based on Mandarin. If it is a dictation, it is not awkward.

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Harpoon

cool I think I'm beginning to get it now :mrgreen:

so anyone could theoretically go around speaking Cantonese using Standard Written Chinese grammar and it would be acceptable?

so spoken Cantonese is considered kind of slangy, etc...

and is it a coincidence that your full cantonese spoken version was shorter than the origional?

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sui.generis
First of all, yes the Chinese writing system does allow for gifted writing. In fact, it is somewhat less rigid compared to English,

How do you figure? I'm not saying it's not true because I'm not advanced enough in my studies to say, but what makes written chinese less rigid than English?

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Dennis

Only a native speaker of Cantonese can decide whether he speaks Mandarin or Cantonese using Standard Written Grammar or Cantonese using Cantonese Grammar because he has learnt how use it correctly.

Non native speakers of Cantonese should only use Cantonese Grammar.

Native speaker:

Wo shi Zhongguoren 我是中國人。

Ngo hai Junggwokyan 我是中國人。

Ngo hai Junggwokyan 我係中國人。

Harpoon:

Ngo hai Junggwokyan 我係中國人。

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