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

2913 Words May 2nd, 2006 12 Pages
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 …show more content…
Currently, there are an estimated 64 million speakers of Cantonese compared to the 1 million Taishanese speakers in Taishan and over 1.3 million Taishanese speakers in other places such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Even though Seiyap is a sub-dialect of Saamyap, people who speak the standard have a hard time understanding the harsher, village dialect of Taishanese. This is due to the difference in tones and the changing of certain consonants either before or after words. In order to more carefully evaluate the differences between the two dialects, I asked native speakers of each to give me sample readings of the same passages. I recorded their voices in hopes of identifying the major differences in word usage and pronunciation.
One striking difference between the two was that in conversation, Taishanese used a more literal approach as opposed to Cantonese, where the spoken language is very different from the written form. In Hong Kong, the government has what they call
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