Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tones in Cantonese

This post is written in response to a question posed by blogger Chinese Language Lesson concerning my post entitled 'How I Learnt Cantonese' in the comment column.

He asked me whether there are tones in Cantonese as in Mandarin. Well, Cantonese has the four tones too for inflection but it has the least 4th tone. The following examples will clarify the existence of tones in the above Chinese dialect. Numerals after the words represent the tones.

Example 1

Cantonese: Lei2 hui1 pin4 tou3?

English : Where are you going?

Example 2

Cantonese: Khuoi2 hou2 sar4 ch'an3.

English: He is very stuck up.

Example 3

Cantonese: Li tou hai mat ye tai fong?

English: What's this place?

Example 4

Cantonese: T'eng4 yet3 choi1 lai3 guo1.

English: Come again tomorrow.


Cantonese: Pin4 guo1 wa3 hai3 kum2 kay2?

English: Who says it is like this?

In English, if I adopt the same tone system, there are only three tones, namely first tone, third tone and fourth tone. There is no second tone.

Example 1: Where4 is3 my3 pen4?

Example 2: A3 bear1 looks4 cute4 when3 it4 is3 small4.

So much for tones in Cantonese.

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