Last modified on 12 July 2016, at 03:45


Cantonese (Traditional Chinese: 粵語, Simplified Chinese: 粤语; Hanyu Pinyin:Yuè Yǔ; Jyutping: jyut6 jyu5) is the de facto official language of Hong Kong and Macau and is also the lingua franca of Guangdong Province. Despite its being commonly called a dialect, it is in fact a separate language from Mandarin, the official spoken language of China, differing not only phonologically, but also grammatically and in vocabulary.

Cantonese preserved many features found in Ancient Chinese that are lost in Mandarin. It kept many of Ancient Chinese's final consonants (i.e. "m", "n", "ng", "p", "t", and "k") and has at least six tones, compared to Mandarin's two final consonants (i.e. "n" and "ng") and Mandarin's four tones. Cantonese also has fewer initial consonants but it also has about twice as many distinctively different syllables compared to Mandarin. Therefore, colloquial Cantonese words tend to be more monosyllabic compared to Mandarin, whose words tend to be more polysyllabic, because Cantonese does not differentiate as many homonyms.

Since Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in 1997, the central Chinese government has not asserted that Mandarin would take over as the official spoken language of the region (as it is throughout China), but removed Cantonese's status as official language, declaring that "Chinese" as the official language - a vague distinction.