Last modified on 6 February 2009, at 04:25

Written Chinese/Cantonese pronunciation

The Cantonese characters pronunciation consists of three elements: syllable onset(聲母), syllable nucleus(韻母) and tone(聲調). A character consists of syllable onset(though some rare characters does not have this element), following by a syllable nucleus, with a tone for each character.

The concept of syllable onset and syllable nucleus can be explained by examing the english word "sing". When you pronounce this word, try to divide it to "s-" and "-ing". Note that the "s-" determines the shape of your mouth, and the "-ing" is the actual voiced part. That's the concept of syllable onset and syllable nucleus respectively. The tone is a special feature in Chinese language. There is a total of nine tones, and each character belongs to one of them. Note that there is no concept of stress in Chinese words - each word has only one syllable.

Syllable onsetsEdit

There are totally 19 syllable onsets in Cantonese. The following table shows their pronunciation guide:

Syllable onset Simlilar English pronunciation Notes
b b in boy
p p in paper
m m in mother
f f in father
d d in dog
t t in talk
n n in no
l l in love
g g in get
k k in keep
ng --- To pronounce "ng", first adjust everything in your mouth (tougne, shape of lips, etc) to the position as you would when pronouncing "g" and "k", now the way to say is same as those except that you are using your nose to voice it. (Voice files will be added later)
h h in hello
gw --- Pronunciation simliar to "g", but start with round-shaped lips, gradually forming the lip shape as your are pronouncing the English letter "a". Try to think it as a "go-a(the a in bar)" pronounced together as a single syllable.
kw qu in quiet Same as above, but similar to "k".
z --- The sound of "z" is similar to the English letter "j", but the difference is like "z" and "zh". First the tip of your tougne should be touching your lower incisors, and while pronouncing, gradually move your tougne to your palate. (Voice files will be added later)
ts --- Same as "z", but air should be agitated from your mouth.
s s in song
j (similar to the Spanish "j")y in you
w w in was