Cantonese vs. Taishanese: a Study of the Two Most Ubiquitous Dialects in Chinatowns Worldwide

Topics: Chinese language, Overseas Chinese, Hong Kong Pages: 2 (2925 words) Published: May 14, 2006
As the well known and revered Chinese-American historian remarked, "When the Chinese arrived in America, they brought their language along as cultural baggage as well as mores and customs that had evolved in one of the world's great civilizations" (Louie, 1). The history of the Cantonese, or Yue, language is more than 2,000 years old, making it older than Mandarin, the official language of China, which only has 700 to 800 years of history. Around the time of the Qin Dynasty, Cantonese became more established as a language with its own distinct features, the direct a result of the Hans moving from Northern to Southern China. Mountains and rivers isolated the North from the South, which continued to allow differences between Mandarin and Cantonese to grow ( Although not officially documented, by the time of the Tang Dynasty, Cantonese had all of the linguistic characteristics to distinguish it from the other varieties of Chinese dialects. This period in Chinese history is seen as one of the most glorious to the Cantonese people and is why they refer to themselves as Tong yan, or literally people of the Tang dynasty. The fact that Cantonese has anywhere from six to nine tones and keeps the final consonants of the older language makes it the closest out of all the other Chinese dialects to Ancient Chinese. Learners of any tonal language find themselves at a disadvantage because saying one word in a different tone can take on an entirely different meaning and could be perceived in the wrong context (Lau, 9). For example, the word fu can have than ten different meanings just by saying it with the high, mid, or low level tone or anywhere in between. Being that Cantonese has retained its full set of tones reiterates the fact is the language most similar to the classical hanyu (Chinese language). In general, Cantonese is considered to be the most conservative of dialects, which is referring to its similar...
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