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Andrew78

Cantonese characters

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Andrew78

Hi everyone,

 

it's 2 month I'm studying Mandarin, now I'm a little baffled: I always knew that, even thouth China has over 80 dialects and languages, the charatcters are always the same. But now I see cantonese has its own characters, has it? but are they used and how much?

 

Thank you

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g_l_a_i_1099

I am not sure if you are referring to standard Chinese characters widely used in HK and Taiwan when you mentioned Cantonese characters. In mainland China, simplified Chinese characters are used.

 

https://www.quora.com/Who-invented-simplified-Chinese - This might  help you unsterstand more.

 

Here is an example: Love - 爱 (simplified Chinese) vs. 愛 (standard Chinese).

Note that 'the heart - 心' is omitted from the simplified version - Without the heart, would that be physical love?? I have no idea!

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Michael H

My understanding is that it's a myth that all Chinese languages can be written with the same characters. This would be similar to saying that all Romance languages can be written using the French writing system. Cantonese has many words which are not cognates of words in Mandarin, for which new characters were introduced (often the mouth radical next to some other character with a similar sound). Other Chinese languages presumably have the same problem, but might not have a very accurate system for writing them down. So you could write them down with same characters, but only after "pre-translating" into something closer to Mandarin. (There is then the question of why Mandarin does not lack characters for writing it down. Maybe because the literary language was reconciled with the Mandarin version of the spoken language more recently?)

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somethingfunny

 

 

Cantonese has many idiomatic and grammatical situations where standard written Chinese is not sufficient, so new characters have been created. Specifically, the Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set was first published by the Hong Kong government in 1999 and now includes 5,009 characters for written Cantonese. 

 

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?

 

I've never heard of this before...

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Andrew78

Thank you, now it's pretty clear and, as I understand, we may say that Cantonese speakers know and use both Mandarin characters and Cantonese's, wheras Mandarin only the official characters, so I don't think it may be a issue for someone studying Mandarin. Moreover, I guess it would be rather hard to find a Cantonese writer wanting to write with the cantonese writing sistem, knowing that many people in China won't be able to understand them.

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somethingfunny

Woah!  I can't help feeling there has been some sort of misunderstanding here.  Maybe the OP is happy, but I'm not.  Mandarin and Cantonese use the same writing system.  However, in mainland China they use simplified Chinese characters where as in Hong Kong they use traditional characters.

 

Are you saying that Cantonese speakers in mainland China have another writing system?  

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edelweis

my understanding is that Cantonese uses the same traditional characters as Mandarin, plus a limited set of specific characters. 5000 seems a huge amount though. Does this include all characters used to write Cantonese (same as Mandarin + specific to Cantonese)?

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Andrew78

At any rate, is beyond doubt that Cantonese does have its own writing system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Written_Cantonese#Cantonese_characters

 

my aim was to understand how much this system is used, namely, if its use is accepted as standard in Cantonese speaking areas (i.e if it is taught in school) or if it is just for billboard, local newspapers ect.

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Hofmann

Y'all need to adjust your perspective.

 

Mandarin and Cantonese are different languages, but they are both Han languages. This means most of their words are of Sinitic origin. Because Han characters are used to write Sinitic morphemes, it is natural that most morphemes in both Mandarin and Cantonese are written with Han characters.

 

Where they differ is the morphemes that are used to refer to things because of natural distancing after they split after Middle Chinese. For example, "eat" in Mandarin is usually /ʈ͡ʂʰɨ˥/, and is written 吃 because people were pretty sure it's a cognate of everything written 吃 before then. "Eat" in Cantonese is usually /ɕɪk˨/, and is written 食 because people were pretty sure it's a cognate of everything written 食 before then. Mandarin also says its cognate of 食 but not in the same situations as it uses 吃, and Cantonese also uses 吃 but not at all like 食.

 

This isn't unique to Han languages. In English we can say "starve" and have determined that it's a cognate of German "sterbe," but "sterbe" does not mean "starve," but "die." I don't know what the cognate of "die" is in German, but that of "death" is "Tod," used differently of course.

 

BTW, both Mandarin and Cantonese have had new characters created to write words with unclear origins, e.g. Mandarin 您, 們, 哪, Cantonese [車立], 哋, 唔. One could make strong arguments that new characters were not necessary for some of these, but laypeople will more readily make up a new character than find the "proper" character for something whose etymology they don't know.

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xiaokaka

I think this table from the above Wikipedia article says it all:

Variety Characters Romanization Transliteration

Cantonese 係唔係佢哋嘅? Yale haih m̀h haih keúih deih ge?

Mandarin 是不是他們的? Pinyin Shì bú shì tāmen de?

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Xiao Kui

I've experienced frustration related to this issue when watching Cantonese TV shows. The subtitles often do not fit what the characters are saying because they are a written representation. They make perfect sense but are not exactly what the characters are saying - I can read them because I already know Mandarin, but the incomplete subtitles make it difficult to fill in the gaps when it comes to differences between the two languages.Instead of being able to use my Mandarin to acquire Cantonese I sometimes feel like I am just getting more Mandarin! I only very rarely see the special Cantonese characters used in subtitles :/

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Hofmann

Keeping in mind that most Chinese think there is one Chinese language, written Cantonese has about the same prestige as 90's text messaging abbreviations.

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somethingfunny

My mind is exploding.

 

I always figured if a cantonese speaker wrote what they were saying in simplified characters, I'd be able to read it without too much trouble, save for a few grammatical differences and the odd 吃 - 食 type switch, which wouldn't really worry a native speaker anyway.

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Flickserve

My mind is exploding.

I always figured if a cantonese speaker wrote what they were saying in simplified characters, I'd be able to read it without too much trouble, save for a few grammatical differences and the odd 吃 - 食 type switch, which wouldn't really worry a native speaker anyway.

Here's something FYI. It's an excerpt from a group chat that I am in, written in Cantonese Chinese.

哨哥,你講緊,你呀哥,定你個細細老,得唔得先?

It was encountering this sort of thing that endeared me to Sidney Lau's cantonese books. Granted that I never followed any other books on learning Cantonese.

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g_l_a_i_1099

I am not sure if anyone would use Cantonese specific characters in formal writing because Cantonese is basically a spoken dialect. Some spoken Cantonese words may sound rather rude compared to their equivalence in Putonghua/Mandarin.

 

Text books (for elementary/secondary school) written in traditional Chinese characters would not have any Cantonese specific words because it would be improper!

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somethingfunny

That is messed up.

 

Thanks though renzhe.

 

I guess in all languages the way people speak and the way they write are always different to some extent.  But it must be weird for it to be different to this kind of extent...

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renzhe

Many European languages have a long literary tradition, but diglossia is very common worldwide. It is not uncommon for people to speak one language, but write another.

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somethingfunny

I'm learning

 

And here is the next step on from the diglossia link to bring it full circle.

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