Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Chinese Syllabary Pronounced According to the Dialect of Canton

A Chinese Syllabary Pronounced According to the Dialect of Canton is a book written by Wong Shik Ling within a few years before being published in Hong Kong, 1941. It is one of the most influential books on the research of pronunciation. Many Chinese dictionaries later used Wong's Chinese character indices and system of phonetic symbols to denote the Cantonese pronunciation of Chinese characters. Because of its significance, the book has been reprinted many times after its first publishing.


* Indices of Rime syllabus of the rime dictionary Guangyun
* Radical-stroke count indices
* Categories of Chinese character according to distinct Cantonese pronunciation syllabus. It is first ordered by s, second by s, and third by s alphabetically.
* A research paper on Cantonese phonetics.
* A suggestion scheme of romanisation of Cantonese
* An English research paper on Cantonese phonetics, completed in , , 1938.

Some characters with multiple pronunciation are commented with meaning, short notes, or usage in each category.

Shiqi dialect

Shiqi dialect is a dialect of . It is spoken by roughly 160,000 people in Zhongshan, Guangdong's Shiqi urban district. It differs slightly from Standard Cantonese, mainly in its pronunciation and lexicon.

Samuel Wells Williams

Samuel Wells Williams was a , missionary and from the in the early 19th century.


Williams was born in Utica, New York and studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. On graduation he was elected as a Professor of the Institute.

On the June 15 1833, and still in his twenties, he sailed for China to take charge of the printing press of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at Guangdong, China. In 1837 he sailed on the to Japan. Officially this trip was to return some stranded Japanese sailors, but it was also an unsuccessful attempt to open Japan to American trade.

On November 20 1845 Williams married Sarah Walworth. From 1848 to 1851 Williams was the editor of the Chinese Repository, a leading Western journal published in China. In 1853 he was attached to Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry's expedition to Japan as an official interpreter.

In 1855, Williams was appointed Secretary of the United States Legation to China. During his stay in China, he wrote ''A Tonic Dictionary Of The Chinese Language In The Canton Dialect'' in 1856. After years of opposition from the , Williams was instrumental in the negotiation of the Treaty of Tientsin, which provided for the toleration of both Chinese and foreign Christians.

In 1860, he was appointed chargé d'affaires for the United States in Beijing. He resigned his position on October 25 1876, 43 years to the day that he first landed at Guangzhou in 1833. Around 1875, he completed a translation of the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew into , but the manuscripts were lost in a fire before they could be published.

He returned to the United States in 1877 and became the first Professor of Chinese language and Chinese literature in the United States at Yale University. Williams was nominated as president of the American Bible Society on February 3, 1881. He died on February 16, 1884.


*''The Chinese commercial guide''
*''A Tonic Dictionary Of The Chinese Language In The Canton Dialect''
*''The Middle Kingdom: a survey of the geography, government, literature, social life, arts, and history of the Chinese empire and its inhabitants''
*''Account of a Japanese romance''
*''A syllabic dictionary of the Chinese language, arranged according to the Wu-fang yuan yin, with the pronunciation of the characters as heard in Peking, Canton, Amoy and Shanghai''
*''Syllabic Dictionary Of The Chinese Language''
*''Chinese Immigration''
*''A History Of China Being The Historical Chapters From "The Middle Kingdom"''
*''A journal of the Perry expedition to Japan''
*''Narrative Of A Voyage Of The Ship Morrison Captain D. Ingersoll, To Lewchew And Japan, In The Months of July and August, 1837''

Gaoyang dialect

There are at least four major dialect groups of . Gaoyang is one of them and is spoken in Maoming, Yangjiang and the surrounding region.

Ernst Johann Eitel

Ernst Johann Eitel or alternatively Ernest John Eitel was a German Protestant missionary to China born in Württemberg, Germany.

Missionary career

He served in Evangelical Church of Württemberg as pastor. Adopting a Chinese name , he later came to Lilang, Xin'an district in Guangdong, China under the Basel Mission. In April 1865 he transferred to the London Missionary Society at Guangzhou to take in charge of the Boluo Mission and the Hakka villages outside Guangzhou. In January 1870 he moved to Hong Kong while still having charge of the Boluo Mission. In 1875 he became Director of Chinese Studies. In April 1879 he resigned from the London Missionary Society.

He then became Inspector of Schools in Hong Kong and later Chinese Secretary to Sir John Pope Hennessy. In 1866 he married Mary Anne Winifred Eaton of the Female Education Society. He died in Adelaide, Australia, in 1908.

A Cantonese Dictionary

Eitel has published its dictionary, ''Chinese Dictionary in the Cantonese Dialect'' in 1877. It is based on a Cantonese glossary dictionary ''Tonic Dictionary of the Chinese Language in the Canton Dialect'' written in 1856 by Samuel Wells Williams, expanding with the work of James Legge and ''Kangxi Dictionary''. His publication was intended to standardize the pronunciation of Cantonese.

His work was criticised by Wong Shik Ling in the book ''A Chinese Syllabary Pronounced according to the Dialect of Canton'' that it inherited the inaccuracy from former works.


* ''Feng-Shui, Or, The Rudiments Of Natural Science In China''
* ''A Chinese dictionary in the Cantonese dialect''
* ''The central school : can it justify its raison d'etre?''
* ''Buddhism : its historical, theoretical and popular aspects''
* ''Chinese School-Books''
* ''Europe In China : The History Of Hong Kong From The Beginning To The Year 1882''

Ernest Tipson

Ernest Tipson was a Brethren Missionary and who compiled a dictionary of .

Born into a large Brethren family in Enfield, England, Tipson began his working life as an architect's clerk but went to Singapore in 1908. He devoted his life, thereafter, to working in God's service.

Within a couple of years, he travelled to China to master several dialects. Tipson was a talented linguist; his Pocket Dictionary of the Amoy Vernacular is still referenced during the compilation of modern dictionaries. Ernest made sure that every word in the Bible was included in this dictionary. Another of his publications, a Complete Chinese Character Course, was mostly composed in Changi Prison during the war. At Changi, he occupied Cell 24, along with Shenton Thomas, the then Governor of Singapore.

His survival, says his son, also Ernest, was probably due to his tremendous sense of humour and the good company and support of son-in-law David. Liberated at last, Ernest Senior travelled to India to be reunited with his wife and son. "He was as thin as a stick!" remembers his son, Ernest Junior. "We fell into each others arms."

After the war, Ernest Tipson resumed his work in Singapore briefly, but soon returned to England. He died in Cornwall during a preaching visit to a local Gospel hall.


*''A Pocket Dictionary of the Amoy Vernacular, Chinese-English.''
*''A Cantonese Syllabary-Index to Soothill’s Pocket Dictionary, incorporating all Cantonese colloquial characters and their meanings.''
*''Complete Chinese Character Course, etc.''

Daniel Jones (phonetician)

Daniel Jones was a London-born . A pupil of , professor of phonetics at the ?cole des Hautes ?tudes at the Sorbonne , Daniel Jones is considered by many to be the greatest phonetician of the early 20th century.


In 1900, Jones studied briefly at William Tilly's Marburg Language Institute in Germany where he was first introduced to phonetics. In 1903 he received his BA degree in mathematics at , converted by payment to in 1907. From 1905 to 1906, he studied at Paris under Paul Passy, who was one of the founders of the International Phonetic Association, and in 1911 married Passy's niece Cyrille Motte. He briefly took private lessons from the great British phonetician Henry Sweet. In 1907 he became a part-time lecturer at University College London, and was afterwards appointed to a full-time position. In 1912 he became the head of the Department of Phonetics and was appointed to a chair in 1921, a post he held until his retirement in 1949. From 1906 onwards, Jones was an active member of the International Phonetic Association, and was Assistant Secretary from 1907-1927, Secretary from 1927 to 1949 and President from 1950 to 1967.

In 1909, Jones wrote the short ''Pronunciation of English'', a book which he later radically revised. The ''Outline of English Phonetics'' which followed in 1918 is the first truly comprehensive description of British Received Pronunciation, and indeed the first such description of the standard pronunciation of any language.

The year 1917 was a landmark in many ways. Jones became the first linguist in the western world to use the term phoneme in its current sense, employing the word in his article ''The phonetic structure of the Sechuana Language'' . Jones had made an earlier notable attempt at a pronunciation dictionary but it was now that he produced the first edition of his famous ''English Pronouncing Dictionary'' , a work which in revised form is still in print. It was here that the cardinal vowel diagram made a first appearance .

The problem of the phonetic description of vowels is of long standing, going back to the era of the ancient Indian linguists. Three nineteenth century British phoneticians deserve mention. Alexander Melville Bell devised which included an elaborate system for vowels. Alexander Ellis had also suggested vowel symbols for his phonetic alphabets. Henry Sweet did much work on the systematic description of vowels, coming up with what must be considered a somewhat over-elaborate system of vowel description involving a multitude of symbols. Jones however was the one who is generally credited with having gone much of the way towards a practical solution through his scheme of 'Cardinal Vowels', a relatively simple system of reference vowels which for many years has been taught systematically to students within the British tradition. It is worth pointing out, however, that much of the inspiration for this scheme can be found in the earlier publications of Paul Passy.

In the original form of the Cardinal Vowels, Jones employed a dual-parameter system of description based on the supposed height of the tongue arch together with the shape of the lips. This he reduced to a simple quadrilateral diagram which could be used to help visualize how vowels are articulated. Tongue height is represented on the vertical axis and front vs. back on the horizontal axis indicates the portion of the tongue raised on the horizontal axis. Lip-rounding is also built into the system, so that front vowels have spread or neutral lip postures, but the back vowels have more marked lip-rounding as vowel height increases. Jones thus arrived at a set of eight "primary Cardinal Vowels", and recorded these on gramophone disc for HMV in 1917.

Later modifications to his theory allowed for an additional set of eight "secondary Cardinal Vowels" with reverse lip shapes, permitting the representation of eight secondary cardinal vowels . Eventually Jones also devised symbols for central vowels and positioned these on the vowel diagram. He made two further disc recordings for Linguaphone in 1943 and 1956.

With the passing years, the accuracy of many of Jones's statements on vowels has come increasingly under question, and most linguists now consider that the vowel quadrilateral must be viewed as a way of representing auditory space in visual form, rather than the tightly defined articulatory scheme envisaged by Jones. Nevertheless, the International Phonetic Association still uses a version of Jones's model, and includes a Jones-type vowel diagram on its influential International Phonetic Alphabet leaflet contained in the "Handbook of the International Association". Many phoneticians resort to it constantly as a quick and convenient form of reference.

Although Jones is especially remembered for his work on the phonetics and phonology of English, he ranged far more widely. He produced phonetic/phonolological treatments which were masterly for their time on the sound systems of Cantonese, Tswana , Sinhalese, and Russian. He was the first phonetician to produce, in his "Sechuana Reader", a competent description of an African tone language, including the concept of downstep. Jones helped develop new alphabets for African languages, and suggested systems of romanisation for Indian languages and Japanese. He also busied himself with support for revised spelling for English through the Simplified Spelling Society.

Apart from his own vast array of published work, Jones will be remembered for having acted as mentor to numerous scholars who later went on to become famous linguists in their own right. These included such names as Lilias Armstrong, Harold Palmer, Ida Ward, Hélène Coustenoble, Arthur Lloyd James, Dennis Fry, A.C. Gimson, Gordon Arnold, J.D. O'Connor, and many more. For several decades his department at University College was pivotal in the development of phonetics and in making its findings known to the wider world. A point of interest is that it is probably Daniel Jones who provided George Bernard Shaw with the basis for his fictional character Henry Higgins in "Pygmalion". See the discussion in "The Real Professor Higgins" .

After retirement, Jones worked assiduously at his publications almost up to the end of his long life. He died at his home in Gerrards Cross on December 4, 1967.


A Cantonese-ism is a usage feature or lexeme found in any non-Cantonese language that is derived from or influenced by . Such influences can be found in with expressions or syntax, with expressions of syntax, or other languages. Cantonese-isms are typical in Hong Kong English, as Cantonese is the native language of much of Hong Kong's population.


* Taxi: 計程車 --> 的士 ; Ride a taxi: 坐計程車 --> 打的

Cantonese grammar

is an analytic language where, in a sentence, the arrangement of words is important to its meaning. A basic sentence is in form of , i.e. a is followed by a verb then by an , though this order is often violated because Cantonese is a Topic-prominent language. Unlike synthetic languages, seldom do words indicate time, gender and plural by inflection. Instead, these concepts are expressed through adverbs, aspect markers, and particles, or are deduced from the context. Different particles are added to a to further specify its status or .

A verb itself indicates no tense. The time can be explicitly shown with time-indicating adverbs. Certain exceptions exist, however, according to the pragmatic interpretation of a verb's meaning.Additionally, an optional particle can be appended to a verb to indicate the state of an action. Appending interrogative or exclamative particles to a sentence turns a sentence into a question or shows the attitudes of the speaker.

Verbal Aspect

In contrast to many European languages, Cantonese verbs are marked for aspect rather than tense - that is, whether an action has begun, is ongoing, or has been completed. Tense - where an action occurs within time, ie past, present, future - is specified through the use of time adverbs. In addition, verbal complements may convey aspectual distinctions, indicating whether an action is just beginning, is continuing, or at completion, and also the effect of the verb on its object.

Aspect particles are treated as suffixes bound to the verb.

Abbreviations: CL = classifier; SFP = sentence-final particle


Cantonese uses the following pronouns, which like in many other Sinitic languages, function as both subjective and objective :


States and qualities are generally expressed using stative verbs that do not require the verb "to be". For example, to say "I am hungry", one would say 我餓 .

With noun complements, the verb 係 ''hai6'' serves as the verb "to be".

:琴日係中秋節 ''Yesterday was the Mid-Autumn festival''

Another use of 係 is in cleft constructions for emphasis, much like the English construction "It's ... that ...". The sentence particle 嘅 "ge3" often follows.

:佢係完全唔識講廣東話嘅 " s/he cannot speak Cantonese at all."

N.B.: Do not confuse 係 ''hai6'' with 喺 ''hai2'' .

To indicate location, the words 喺 ''hai2'' and 響 ''hoeng2'', which are collectively known as the locatives or sometimes coverbs in Chinese linguistics, are used to express " at":

:我而家喺圖書館 ''I am at the library now''


Many negation words start with the sound m- in Cantonese; for example, 唔 ''m4'' , 冇 ''mou5'' , 未 ''mei6'' . Verbs are negated by adding the character 唔 ''m4'' in front of it. For example:

:我食得花生 ''I can eat peanuts''


:我唔食得花生 ''I cannot eat peanuts''

The exception is the word 有 ''jau5'' , which turns into 冇 ''mou5'' without the use of 唔.

The negative imperative is formed by prefixing 唔好 ''m4 hou2'' or 咪 ''mai5'' in front of the verb:

:唔好睇戲 ''Don't watch movies''

:咪睇戲 ''Don't watch movies''

In contrast to the examples of sentential negation above where the entire sentence is negated, 唔 can also be used lexically to negate a single word. The negated word often differs slightly in meaning from the original word; that is, this lexcial negation is a kind of derivation. Evidence for this is that they can be used with the perfective aspect particle 咗 ''jo2'', which is not possible with sententially negated verbs.

:見 --> 唔見

:記得 --> 唔記得

:錯 --> 唔錯 / 冇錯

:我唔見咗我本書 "I lost my book"

is perfectly acceptable, but

:'*'我唔食咗嘢 "I did not eat"

is ungrammatical.



Yes-or-no questions take the form of SUBJ VERB+唔+VERB:

:你識唔識講廣東話? ''Do you know how to speak Cantonese?''

The exception is with the verb "to have", where one uses the form 有冇 ''jau5 mou5'' for yes-no questions:

:有冇紅綠燈? ''Is there'' ''a traffic light?''

Often, 係 ''hai6'' uses the shortened form 係咪 ''hai6 mai6'' instead of the expected 係唔係.

:佢係咪加拿大人? ''Is he/she a Canadian?''

With multi-character verbs, only the first character is repeated:

:你鐘唔鐘意年糕? ''Do you like new-year cake?''

Interrogative Words

The interrogative words are as follows:



The proximal demonstrative , is 呢 ''ni1'' / ''nei1'' or more frequently in fast speech, 依 ''ji1'' . For example:

:呢本書 ''this book''

:依本書 ''this book''

The distal demonstrative is 嗰 ''go2'' . For example:

:嗰本書 ''that book''


For plural demonstratives, add 啲 ''di1'' before the noun:

:呢啲書 ''these books''

:嗰啲書 ''those books''


For singular nouns, the word 嘅 ''ge3'' is roughly equivalent to English " 's":

:爸爸嘅屋企 ''father's house''

Plural nouns take 啲 ''di1'':

:你啲動物 ''your animals''

N.B.: 啲 is a very versatile word in Cantonese, besides pluralizing certain phrases, it can also mean "a little/few", e.g. 一啲 ''jat1 di1'' , or 早啲 ''earlier'' .

Possessive pronouns are formed by adding 嘅/啲 after the pronoun.

:係佢嘅呀! ''It's his!''

However, in the case where there's an implied plural noun, one does not say:

:係佢啲呀! ''It's his!'.

For example:



嘅呀 ''ge3 aa3'' is usually shortened in speech into one syllable, 嘎/? ''gaa3''.

One could also say:


Both of these are generic possessives.

For some special objects, possessives can be omitted, but not must. For example 屋企 mentioned above.

:爸爸屋企 ''father house''

For specific objects, can be used as possessive as well:

:佢本書 ''his book''

Moreover, measure words in Cantonese can serve as definite articles. E.g. 本書唔見咗 ''The book is lost''. These two usages are not found in Mandarin Chinese.