Cantonese Language Facts

Cantonese Language Facts

1. The Origins

As a form of Chinese, Cantonese is part of the Sino-Tibetan languages. It evolved from Middle Chinese, and became the main language of Canton, South China.

2. The Speakers

It is estimated that Cantonese is spoken by 100 million people worldwide. Cantonese is mainly spoken in Hong Kong, Macau and other parts of Southern China, and there are substantial Cantonese-speaking minorities across Southeast Asia. Cantonese is also the dominant form of Chinese spoken by the Chinese diaspora in Europe, North America and Australia.

3. The Difference

While Mandarin is the dominant form of Chinese spoken in mainland China, it is originally a dialect from Northern China which was elevated as a main language to unify the country. The Chinese living in the UK and North America are more likely to speak Cantonese than Mandarin, as the majority of them come from Southern China. As a result, Cantonese is the main language in most Chinatowns across the world.

4. The Tones

Cantonese is generally considered as having six different tones. Tones are used to differentiate words.

5. The Written Form

Written and spoken Cantonese are different, and written Cantonese is very similar to Standard Chinese and Mandarin.


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