Mandarin and Cantonese

Discussion in 'Off Topic Area' started by cuongnhugirl, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. cuongnhugirl

    cuongnhugirl Banned Banned

    Is it like comparing English to German? Same family of languages, some similair words but different languages. Thats what i always thought of the different Chinese dialects.
  2. Manila-X

    Manila-X OSU!

    Just got back from HK! The fact I frequently visit the said territory, it is more essential for me to learn Cantonese over Mandarin. Though the latter is encouraged by the Chinese Government for it's locals to learn.
  3. AndrewTheAndroid

    AndrewTheAndroid A hero for fun.

    The spoken language is almost completely different. Also it's not a dialect, as it actually pre-dates Mandarin.
  4. Xanth

    Xanth Valued Member

  5. holyheadjch

    holyheadjch Valued Member

    ...surely you just write in Chinese, and it is the pronunciation of those characters that separates Cantonese and Mandarin.

    Where the heck is Slip (or alternatively one of the Chinese members) when you need him?
  6. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    The only similarites between the relationships of English/German and Mandarin/Cantonese is that they are mutually unintelligible and of the same language family (Germanic and Sino-Tibetan respectively).

    Mandarin and Cantonese are different languages, like others have said. The Chinese languages are that - languages rather than dialects. There are many more as well.

    The script is the almost unifying factor of the Chinese languages. The vernacular written Chinese used today was standardized in the early 20th century around Mandarin, which was made the official language. Before this, they were writing in Classical Chinese, which was VERY different from the vernacular as it was based on a very old form of spoken Chinese and therefore had little to do with the modern languages.

    The nature of the Chinese writing system enables speakers of non-Mandarin Chinese languages to understand what is being written, even though it may not make a ton of sense in relation to their own language (say, Cantonese) for grammatical purposes, word choice, or whatnot. This is why there exists "written Cantonese" that may not be optimal to Mandarin speakers for the same reasons.

    In terms of the language mechanics, you can read up on their articles at Wikipedia to give yourself a introduction to the differences. Look them up at YouTube also and you'll eventually find that they really sound quite different from eachother.
  7. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Pronunciation and use. Written vernacular Chinese (i.e. written Mandarin) would sound weird to a Cantonese speaker if he or she read it out loud for the reasons I stated in my last post. Cantonese speakers would prefer to use different characters (or words) in different ways to more closly reflect their spoken language.
  8. holyheadjch

    holyheadjch Valued Member

    But it would be (broadly) understandable?
  9. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Last edited: Mar 5, 2013
  10. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Mandarin has 4 tones.

    The "article" (it's really more of a blog post) you posted is terrible. She incorrectly states that Mandarin has 7 tones, and then says that it has 4 just under that in the summary. She also needs a proof reader for capitalization of proper nouns (at least), and saying "since the time of the Christ" is highly unscientific aside from being grammatically incorrect.

    For the specifics of phonology (like tones) for the curious, try these for a start:
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2013
  11. querist

    querist MAP Resident Linguist?

    Officially, Mandarin has four or five tones (depending on if you count the "neutral" tone). Cantonese has 6 according to the Jyutping Romanization method.

    Other tone counts come from regular variants, such as some considering Mandarin to have more than four or five because of the strange way the third tone behaves before another syllable with the third tone, and the old practice of counting the abrupt-ending syllables in Cantonese (those ending in t, p, k) as separate tones.

    Now to Cuongnhugirl's question...

    The grammar of the two languages is essentially identical. The written forms are somewhat different for two reasons. The first is differing vocabulary. In this case, it is like the difference between American and British English - there are different words used for certain things like "sidewalk" instead of "pavement", or "trunk" instead of "boot" (of a car).

    Also, the more famous Cantonese-speaking areas (HK and Macao) use traditional characters instead of the simplified characters used in the mainland (such as in Guangdong province, where Cantonese is the local dialect). This can be considered similar to the spelling differences between British and American English such as "colour" and "aluminium".

    The difference, though, is that while British and American English are mostly mutually intelligible, Mandarin and Cantonese are mutually unintelligible. I've actually found myself having to interpret between the two once in a mall in Hong Kong because my colleague, a native Mandarin speaker, and I were trying to find something in the mall and the little old lady who was there cleaning spoke neither English nor Mandarin. I speak enough Cantonese to get by as well as speaking Mandarin fairly well, so I wound up interpreting between two Chinese people. I thought it was funny, and my colleague has since decided (after living in Guandong province for 18 years) to learn Cantonese.

    The differences between Chinese dialects is unusual because the writing system is the same, but the pronunciations can be so completely different that while two people can exchange written correspondence, they cannot converse.

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