Cantonese Dialect
2009-August-24 Source:
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There are traditionally eight regional dialects in China, besides putonghua (mandarin). They are Northern dialect, Beijing dialect, Shanghai dialect, Sichuan dialect, Hunan dialect, Fujian dialect, Jiangxi dialect and Cantonese. Cantonese is popularly versed in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, Macao and many overseas communities. Cantonese is the most influential local vernacular in South China. But Guangdong is very complicated linguistically with a variety of local branches of Cantonese. There are several popular ones.

Firstly, Yue dialect (formerly called Guangzhou official dialect) is prevalent in the province with a speech community of 38 million. Based on different pronunciations and variations in meaning, it can be subdivided into several local branches:

With a speech community of 20 millions, Guangfu branch is spoken mainly in cities: Guangzhou, Nanhai, Foshan, Panyu, Shunde, Sanshui, Qingyuan, Huadu, Conghua, Longmen, Fogang, Zengcheng, Dongguan, Bao'an, Shenzhen, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Yingde, Zhaoqing, Gaoyao, Gaoming, Heshan, Xinxing, Yunfu, Shaoguan, Qujiang and Lechang, surely including Hong Kong and Macao. Dabaihua is spoken mainly in Guangzhou municipal area with a speech community of 3.8 million. It is also the main working language of Zhujiang TV Station and one of the working languages of CCTV, for it is the common core of the local dialects.

Gaozhou-Lianjiang branch is spoken mainly in Yangjiang, Yangchun, Yangxi, Maoming, Dianbai, Huazhou, Gaozhou, Xinyi, Zhanjiang, Lianjiang, Suixi and Wuchuan with a speech community of 6 million.

Luoding-Guangning branch is spoken mainly in Sihui, Luoding, Deqing, Guangning, Huaiji, Fengkai, Yun’an, Yangshan, Lianxian and Lianshan with a population of 7 million.

Siyi (Four-Town) branch mainly spoken in Jiangmen, Xinhui, Enping, Kaiping, Taishan and Doumen with a smaller speech community of about 4 million users.

Secondly, Kejia (Hakka) dialect is popular with a speech community of about 1.4 million, versed in Meixian County, Xingning, Wuhua, Jiaoling, Dapu, Pingyuan and part of Huizhou, Huiyang, Huidong, Boluo, Heyuan, Heping, Longchuan, Zijin, Lianping, Renhua, Nanxiong, Shixing, Wengyuan, Xinfeng, Ruyuan, Fengshun, Lufeng, Luhe and Jiexi. Hakka is the main dialect in Meizhou, Heyuan and Huizhou areas while the Chaozhou dialect is spoken in the Chaozhou-Shantou area. Both dialects are completely different from the orthodox Cantonese.

Thirdly, the Minnan dialect (a branch of Fujian dialect) versed in Guangdong can be subdivided into two categories: Chaozhou-Shantou dialect mainly spoken in Chaozhou, Chenghai, Raoping, Jieyang, Jiexi, Chaoyang, Pu'ning, Huilai, Shanwei, Haifeng, and part of Fengshun, Lufeng and Luhe, where 12 million speakers can be found. The other is Leizhou dialect, centered in Leizhou City, spoken by 4 million people in Xuwen, Shuixi, Lianjiang, Dianbai and Zhanjiang. Moreover, there are three main minority languages: the Yao, Zhuang and She spoken in the north and in the east respectively.

Nowadays with the popularity and rapid spreading of putonghua (modern mandarin), most Cantonese would like to speak putonghua on formal occasions, or when they talk to those who cannot speak Cantonese, but with a Cantonese flavor. Putonghua is the most popular official language used here in the local governments, or in schools. In recent years, all the teachers and civil servants of the local governments have been required to speak putonghua, to learn English and to use computers. An on-line government is to be set up in near future.


Editor: 欧阳妍
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