Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Topics related to learning Mandarin Chinese.
Sum Won

Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Fri Apr 19, 2002 6:14 am

For more on the debate about this topic, head over to the Cantonese Language forum, and look for the subject title "Cantonese originally not Chinese???"

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Mirror » Fri Mar 07, 2003 11:09 am

As far as I'm concern, Chinese from Ching Dynasty and before sounds more like Cantonese. It's when it became communistic that mandarin (meaning "common language") is more popular. That's why the old poems rhyme better using Cantonese.

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Pazu » Sat Mar 22, 2003 6:20 am

I've heard that in Tang Dynasty the "Mandarin" (that's the official Chinese language) had 13 tones, while Cantonese still have 9 now, and Mandarin (I mean Beijinghua) has 4 only. So it's fair to say Cantonese is indeed more like an ancient type of Chinese. I speak Japanese too, and know very little Korean, but I think Cantonese is nothing similar to those two languages in grammar, though some sounds are very similar.

Dylan Sung

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Dylan Sung » Sat Mar 22, 2003 8:21 am


I don't know where you heard that the language had 13 tones during the Tang dynasty. It is well known from character rhyme dictionaries which survive in fragment to the present that there were four main tone classes.

These are

平 Ping
上 Seung
去 Hui
入 Yap

We don't actually know the exact intonation or pitch levels which these tones represent, but it can be seen in various states in nearly all Chinese dialects one way or another.

According to some phonological rules which can be deduced from looking at the modern pronunciations of Chinese characters in relation to the pronunciations recorded in the older rhyme dictionaries, each tone class became split into two registers, a higher and a lower one. These are generally call 陰 yam and 陽 yeung registers, so you have

陰平 yam ping
陽平 yeung ping

陰上 yam seung
陽上 yeung seung

陰去 yam hui
陽去 yeung hui

陰入 yam yap
陽入 yeung yap

which shows an eight way tone distinction. (Though this is a gross simplification, it is a convenient generalisation.)

In Cantonese, there was a further splitting in the yam yap tone and you have 陰入 yam yap and 中入 jung yap. Thus giving you nine tones in all.

In my own Hakka language, there wasn't a splitting in the seung tone, and my own hui tone is unsplit, however, we do find the yam/yeung splitting in the ping and yap tones, giving six tones in all.

In Mandarin, there is no ru tone in the standard language, moreover, like Hakka, the seung and qu tones are unsplit, but the ping tone is. The characters once in the yap tone became distributed amongst the other tones, thus there are four tones in Mandarin, yam ping, yeung ping, seung and hui tones.