Monday, September 29, 2008

Bilingualism in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a bilingual city, its residents speaking and which are both official languages of Hong Kong under the Hong Kong Basic Law and the .

English as an official language

The British Hong Kong in 1840 as a free port to serve as an entrep?t of the British Empire, and the British Authorities and businessmen spoke . Caucasian Hong Kongers remained the ethnic and linguistic majority until the early 1900s when Chinese immigrants began to outnumber the British. The British continued to use English as an official language, but added as an official language of the colony in late 1970s.

Following the of the colony, is still widely used in law and business, and it is still taught in schools and spoken by over 30% of the population. The British have also left their language on place names within Hong Kong, particularly on Hong Kong Island, where British rule had the largest impact.

Cantonese as an official language

, the Chinese dialect of Guangdong and other parts of southern became an official language of Hong Kong when the Chinese population of the colony grew . Hong Kong's population reached 6.99 million in 2006, of which approximately 95% are of , the majority of which was , Hakka, and Teochew.

Most Chinese Hongkongers speak Cantonese at home and approximately 33% know English as a second language.

Code-switching in Hong Kong

Code-switching, or the practice of using more than one language in conversation, is very common in Hong Kong. It usually involves a mix of Cantonese and as a result of the bilingualism in Hong Kong.

Other languages in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is home to a wide range of ethnicities, and substantial portions of Hongkongers are neither native English nor Cantonese speakers. is the largest non-official language, with over 25,000 Japanese people in Hong Kong. refugees emigrated to Hong Kong and still speak as their first language.

There is a significant number of South Asians in Hong Kong. Signboards written in Hindi or Urdu are common in areas with South Asians, and languages such as , and are often heard on the streets of Hong Kong as well.

There are also two newspapers written in Nepalese in Hong Kong, ''The Everest'' and the ''Sunrise Weekly Hong Kong''. In 2004, the Home Affairs Bureau and Metro Plus 1044 jointly launched radio shows ''Hong Kong-Pak Tonight'' in Urdu and ''Harmo Sagarmatha'' in Nepalese.

is used frequently among members of Muslim communities in Hong Kong, and it is quickly becoming a popular . .

Weitou dialect

Generally speaking, Weitou Hua can refer to any language/dialect spoken in the villages of Shenzhen and Hong Kong in , including and s, in contrast to Standard Cantonese spoken by the majority of Hong Kong and Shenzhen residents.

In a specific sense, however, Weitou Hua is a distinct dialect of Cantonese, on which this article focuses. According to some linguistic classification schemes, the Weitou dialect form part of the Dongguan-Bao'an sub-zone of the Cantonese dialect zone . It is spoken by the older generations in Shenzhen, and by those in the New Territories, Hong Kong.

The Weitou dialect can be heard in Hong Kong TV dramas and movies, and is usually used to characterize characters who come from walled villages. For example, in the 1992 movie ''Now You See Love, Now You Don't'' , the chief character, played by Chow Yun-Fat who himself grown up in Lamma Island, consistently speaks the Weitou dialect.


Zhang & Zhuang records the phonological systems of three varieties of the Weitou dialect spoken in Hong Kong. Following is the one of Fan Tin , San Tin .

There are four tone contours, when the "entering tones" are ignored:

Teochew dialect

of ucfirst: at Wikimedia Incubator

The Chaozhou language, variably spelled Teochiu, Tiuchiu, Tiochiu, or Diojiu, but mostly commonly referred to in English as Teochew, is a dialect of the Southern Min , spoken in the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong. It has low intelligibility with other Min Nan dialects, having fewer words in common than German has with English.


Chaozhou is a member of the Southern Min or Min Nan dialect group, which in turn constitutes one of the seven major dialect groups of the Sinitic language family. Like other varieties of , people have not yet agreed on whether Chaozhou should be treated as a language or a dialect. However, apart from the political perspective of this, from a purely linguistic point of view, Chaozhou should be a language in its own right since it is mutually unintelligible with other "dialect groups" of China. According to , Chaozhou has an overall 50.4% of mutual intelligibility with the Xiamen dialect, 44.3% with and 43.5% with .

Nevertheless, Chaozhou is mutually intelligible with some other Southern Min Languages, notably the dialects of Zhangzhou and Quanzhou probably because of their proximity. Even within the Chaozhou varieties, there is substantial variation in phonology between different regions of Chaoshan and between different Chaozhou communities overseas.

The Chaozhou languages, in terms of their closeness, can be roughly divided into 3 sub-groups:

1) Chaozhou sub-group, including Chaozhou , Shantou , Jieyang , Chenghai , Nanao and Raoping ,

2) Chaopu sub-group, including Chaoyang , Puning , Huilai , and

3) Luhai sub-group, including Shanwei , Lufeng and Haifeng

History and geography

Modern Chaozhou evolved from the more archaic Southern Min Language. Between the 9th and the 15th century, a group of Min people migrated south from Fujian to the coastal region of eastern Guangdong known as Chaoshan . This migration was most likely due in part to over-population in Fujian .

Due to geographical isolation from Fujian, Chaozhou evolved into a separate dialect.

As mentioned above, the Chaoshan region where Chaozhou is spoken includes the cities of Chaozhou, Shantou, which are jointly the source of the name, as well as Jieyang, Chaoyang, Puning, Chao'an, Raoping, Huilai, Chenghai, Nanao, Lufeng, Haifeng, Shanwei and Huidong. Parts of the -speaking region, like Jiexi, Dabu and Fengshun are also Chaozhou-speaking.

Chaoshan was one of the major sources of Chinese emigration to Southeast Asia during the 18th–20th centuries, forming one of the larger dialect groups among the Overseas Chinese. As a result, Chaozhou is now spoken in many regions outside of Chaoshan. In particular, the Chaozhou people settled in significant numbers in Thailand and Cambodia, where they form the largest Chinese dialect group. They constitute a significant minority in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia . Chaozhou speakers also live in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and Europe, a result of both direct emigration from Chaoshan to these nations and secondary emigration from Southeast Asia.

However, as the world globalises, the language is losing popularity among the native speakers. In Singapore, due to common culture, and influences from the media , Singaporean Chinese youths whose native language is Chaozhou are either converting to , Standard Mandarin or . Chaozhou remains the native language of many Chinese people in Singapore - Chaozhou people are the second largest Chinese group in Singapore, after the - although Mandarin is gradually Chaozhou as their mother tongue, especially among the younger generations.

Languages in contact


Chaozhou children are introduced to as early as in kindergarten; however, Chaozhou remains the primary medium of instruction. In the early years of primary education, Putonghua then becomes the sole language of instruction, although students typically continue to talk one another in Chaozhou. Putonghua is widely understood, however minimally, by most younger Chaozhou speakers, but the elderly usually do not speak Putonghua since, in their times, teaching was done in the local vernacular.

Chaozhou accent in Putonghua

Native Chaozhou speakers find the neutral tone in Putonghua hardest to master. Chaozhou has lost the alveolar nasal ending and so the people often replace the sound in Putonghua with the velar nasal . None of the southern Min dialects has a front rounded vowel, therefore a typical Chaozhou accent supplants the unrounded counterpart for . Chaozhou, like its ancient ancestor, lacks labio-dentals; people therefore substitute for when they speak Putonghua. Chaozhou does not have any of the retroflex consonants in the northern dialects, so they say , , , and instead of , , and .


Since Chao'an, Raoping and Jieyang border the Hakka-speaking region in the north, some people in these regions speak Hakka, though they can usually speak Chaozhou as well. Chaozhou people have historically had a great deal of contact with the Hakka people, but, interestingly, the Hakka language has had little, if any, influence on Chaozhou. Similarly, in Dabu and Fengshun, where the Chaozhou- and Hakka-speaking regions meet, Chaozhou is also spoken although Hakka remains the primary language there.


Because of influence from Hong Kong soap operas and the importance of Guangzhou in Guangdong province, many young Chaozhou people can understand quite a lot of Cantonese even if they cannot speak it.

Non-Chinese language

In the mountainous area of Fenghuang , a non- language, the She language, is spoken by a few hundred She people . It belongs to the Hmong-Mien language family.

Phonetics and Phonology


Chaozhou is one of the few Sinitic languages which have obstruents ; however, unlike the and languages, the Chaozhou voiced and did not evolve from the Middle Chinese voiced obstruents, instead, they were from the Middle Chinese s. Therefore, the voiced stops and are in fact as and respectively. The voiced alveolar affricate was originally a fricative sound in earlier Chaozhou and still is in some Chaoshan dialects. Southern Min languages are typified by a lack of labio-dentals, as illustrated below:

Oral Vowels

Nasalised Vowels


Syllables in Chaozhou contain an onset consonant, a medial glide, a nucleus, usually in the form of a vowel, but can also be occupied by a syllabic consonant like , and a final consonant. All the elements of the syllable except for the nucleus are optional, which means a vowel or a syllabic consonant alone can stand as a fully-fledged syllable.


All the consonants except for the glottal stop ? shown in the consonants chart above can act as the onset of a syllable; however, the onset position is not obligatorily occupied.



The nucleus is the only obligatory and therefore the most important element of a syllable. It can be occupied by a vowel, a nasalised vowel or a syllabic consonant in chaozhou.


The coda position is usually fulfilled by a stop or nasal consonant but is nevertheless optional.


Citation Tones

Chaozhou, like other Chinese languages, is a tonal language. It has six and extensive tone sandhi.

As with sandhi in other Min Nan dialects, the checked tones interchange. The ''yang'' tones all become low.



The grammar of Chaozhou is similar to southern Chinese dialects, especially with and Cantonese. The sequence 'subject verb object' is typical, like , although 'subject object verb' is also possible using particles.



Personal Pronouns

The personal pronouns in Chaozhou, like in other Sinitic languages, do not show case marking, therefore 我 means both ''I'' and ''me'' and 伊人 means ''they'' and ''them''. The southern Min dialects, like some northern dialects, have the distinction between an inclusive and exclusive we, meaning that when the addressee is being included, the inclusive pronoun 俺 would be used, otherwise 阮 . None of the other southern dialects like Cantonese or Hakka has this distinction.

Possessive Pronouns

The Chaozhou language does not distinguish the possessive pronouns from the possessive adjectives. As a general rule, the possessive pronouns or adjectives are formed by adding the genitive or possessive marker 個/个 to their respective personal pronouns, as summarised below:


''The book is mine''.

However, there are instances in which 個/个 can be dropped, such as when followed by a , as in:


''my skirt''

Demonstrative Pronouns

Chaozhou has the typical two-way distinction between the demonstratives, namely the proximals and the distals, as summarised in the following chart:

Interrogative Pronouns


The cardinal number system works in pretty much the same way as the one.

Note: : Traditional characters; : Simplified characters.

Ordinal numbers are formed by adding 第 in front of a cardinal number.



The Noun Phrase



Modification of the NP

The Verb Phrase

Auxiliary Verbs





In Chaozhou passive construction, the phrase ''by somebody'' always has to be present, and is introduced by either 乞 * or 分 , even though it is in fact a zero or indefinite agent as in:


s/he was killed

*Some speakers use or instead.

Remember that while in Putonghua we can have the agent introducer 被 bèi or 給 gěi alone without the agent itself, it is not grammatical to say

''*'' 個杯敲掉

the cup was broken.

Instead, we have to say:


Even though this 人 is unknown.

Note also that the agent phrase 分人 always comes immediately after the subject, not at the end of the sentence or between the and the past participle like in some European languages


Sentence Final Particles






The comparative construction with two or more nouns

Chaozhou uses the construction "X ADJ 過 Y", which is believed to have evolved from the Ancient Chinese "X ADJ 于 Y" structure, to express the idea of comparison:


She is more beautiful than you.

Cantonese uses the same construction:

cf. 佢靚過你

However, due to influences from Mandarin Chinese, the Mandarin structure "X 比 Y ADJ" has also gained popularity over the years. Therefore, the same sentence can be re-structured and becomes:


cf. Mandarin 她比你漂亮

The comparative construction with only one noun

Note: the 過- or 比-construction must involve two or more nouns to be compared; an ill-formed sentence will be yielded when only one is being mentioned:

''*'' 伊雅過

This is different from English since the second noun being compared can be left out:

cf. Tatyana is more beautiful .

In this case, the 夭-construction has to be used instead:


She is more beautiful.

The same holds true for Mandarin and Cantonese in that another structure needs to be used when only one of the nouns being compared is mentioned. Note also that Chaozhou and Mandarin both use a pre-modifier while Cantonese uses a post-modifier .

cf. Mandarin 她比較漂亮 & Cantonese 佢靚

There are two words which are intrinsically comparative in meaning, i.e. 贏 "better" and 輸 "worse". They can be used alone or in conjunction with the 過-structure:


This skirt is not as good as that one.


My computer is ''far'' better than his.

Note the use of the adverbial 好多 at the end of the sentence to express a higher degree.

The equal construction

In Chaozhou, the idea of equality is expressed with the word 平 or 平樣 :


This book is as heavy as that one.


They are the same.

The superlative construction

To express the superlative, Chaozhou uses the adverb 上 or 上頂 . However, it should be noted that 上頂 is usually used with a complimentary connotation.


This is the most delicious.


They treat me best.


The vocabulary of Chaozhou shares a lot of similarities with Cantonese owing to their continuous contact with each other. Like Cantonese, Chaozhou has a great deal of words, which to a certain extent reflects the age of the Chaozhou language since monosyllabic words were prevalent in . However, ever since the standardisation of , Chaozhou has absorbed a lot of Putonghua vocabulary, which is predominantly polysyllabic. In addition, due to the migration to Southeast Asia, Chaozhou has also borrowed extensively from .

Archaic vocabulary

Chaozhou and other Min Nan dialects such as Taiwanese preserve a good deal of Ancient Chinese vocabulary. Examples include words such as ''eye'' , ''dry'' , and ''hide'' .


Script and orthographies

The majority of Chaozhou words can be written with the Chinese characters; however, a small amount of the native vocabulary does not have a standard character yet, partly because the Chaozhou vocabulary is usually more archaic and thus not commonly used in the modern standard Chinese language and partly because the studies on dialectal writing in China have not flourished like other areas in traditional Chinese philology, and of course there is also the possibility of some locally invented words which actually do not have a Chinese character.


The Chaozhou language has been romanised by the Guangdong provincial government to aid linguistic studies and the publication of dictionaries, although the Taiwanese Pe?h-oē-jī could also be used because the Christian missionaries invented it in a way that is also suitable for the transcription of other Min Nan dialects.

A modified version of the Guangdong romanization system called Peng'im is also used in an online Chaozhou community.


Initial consonants of Chaozhou, are represented in the system as: B, BH, C, D, G, GH, H, K, L, M, N, NG, P, R, S, T, and Z.

* B - bag
* Bh- bhê
* C - cên
* C - cǔi
* C - cêng
* D - dio
* G - gio
* GH- gho
* H - hung
* K - ke
* L - lag
* M - mêng
* N - nang
* NG - ngou
* P - peng
* R - riêg/ruah
* S - sên
* T - tin
* Z - ziu



Vowels and vowel combinations in the Chaozhou dialect include: A, E, ?, I, O, U, AI, AO, IA, IO, IU, OI, OU, UA, UAI, UE, and UI.

* A - ma
* E - de
* ? - sên
* I - bhi
* O - to
* U - ghu

Many words in Chaozhou are nasalized. This is represented by the letter "n" in the Guangdong Pengim system.

''Example '':
* suan
* cên


Ending consonants in Chaozhou include M and NG as well as the stops discussed below.

* M - iam
* NG - bhuang

Chaozhou retains many consonant stops lost in . These stops include a labial stop: "b"; velar stop: "g"; and glottal stop: "h".

* B - zab
* G - hog
* H - tih


Taishanese is a dialect of Cantonese, which is mainly spoken in and around Taishan, a coastal county of the Guangdong province, located southwest of Guangzhou.


The earliest linguistic studies refer to the dialect of Llin-nen or Xinning . Xinning was renamed Taishan in 1914, and linguistic literature has since generally referred to the local dialect as the Taishan dialect, a term based on Standard Mandarin pronunciation. Alternative names have also been used. The term Toishan is a convention used by the United States Postal Service, the Defense Language Institute and the . The terms ''Toishan'', ''Toisan'' and ''Toisaan'' are all based on Standard Cantonese pronunciation, and are also frequently found in linguistic and non-linguistic literature. Lastly, Hoisan is a term based on the local pronunciation, although it is generally not used in published literature.

These terms have also been anglicized with the suffix ''-ese'': Taishanese, Toishanese, and Toisanese. Of the previous three terms, ''Taishanese'' is most commonly used in academic literature, to about the same extent as the term ''Taishan dialect''. The term Hoisanese is not used in print literature, although it appears on the internet.

Another term used is Siyi , which refers to a previous administrative division comprised of the four counties of Taishan, Kaiping, Enping and Xinhui. In 1983, a fifth county was added to the Jiangmen prefecture, and so the term Siyi, which literally means "four counties", has become an anachronism.


Taishanese originates from the Taishan region, where it is spoken. Often regarded as a single language, Taishanese can also be seen as a group of very closely related, mutually intelligible subdialects spoken in the various towns and villages in and around Siyi . It is said one can tell the speaker's village or town from his or her accent and vocabulary.

Taishanese is one of the major languages of the Chinese diaspora. The Taishan region was a major source of Chinese immigrants in the Americas in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Approximately 1.3 million people are estimated to have origins in Taishan. Prior to the signing of the , which allowed new waves of Chinese immigrants, Taishanese was the dominant dialect spoken in Chinatowns across North America. It is also spoken in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City Cholon neighborhood.

Taishanese is still spoken in many Chinatowns, including those of and , by older generations of Chinese immigrants and their children, but is today being supplanted by Cantonese and increasingly by Mandarin in newer Chinese communities across the country.

Relationship between Cantonese and Taishanese

Taishanese is often regarded as similar to , although Cantonese speakers are generally unable to understand Taishanese. The phonology of Taishanese bears some resemblance to mainstream Cantonese, but pronunciation and vocabulary differ, sometimes greatly. Because Cantonese is one of the ''lingua francas'' of Guangdong, virtually all Taishanese-speakers also understand Cantonese, to the extent that some even regard their own tongue as merely differently accented mainstream Cantonese.

In Guangdong, Cantonese functions as a ''lingua franca'', and speakers of other languages/dialects more often than not also speak Cantonese. Today, since Mandarin Putonghua is the standardized language taught in schools throughout the People's Republic of China, residents of Taishan speak as well. As a result, in this region, Taishanese-speakers often freely in conversation, among Taishanese, Cantonese, and .

One distinction between Taishanese and Cantonese is the use of the voiceless lateral fricative , e.g., in the word meaning "three", pronounced ''saam1'' in Cantonese and ''lhaam2'' in Taishanese.


Taishanese is a . There are five contrastive lexical inherited from earlier stages of Chinese. The tones are high, mid, low, mid falling, and low falling; in at least one Taishanese dialect, the falling tones have merged into a low falling tone. There is no tone sandhi.
!Changed tone
!Chao Number
| 口
| -
| -
| 偷
|mid rising
| or
| 頭
|low rising
|mid falling
| 皓
|mid dipping
|low falling
| 厚
|low dipping

Taishanese has four changed tones: mid rising, low rising, mid dipping and low dipping. These tones are called changed tones because they are based on four of the lexical tones. These tones have been analyzed as the addition of a high floating tone to the end of the mid, low, mid falling and low falling tones. The high endpoint of the changed tone often reaches an even higher pitch than the level high tone; this fact has led to the proposal of an expanded number of pitch levels for Taishanese tones. The changed tone can change the meaning of a word, and this distinguishes the changed tones from tone sandhi, which does not change a word's meaning. An example of a changed tone contrast is and .

Writing system

No official standardized form of written Taishanese exists. Writing is done using Chinese characters and Mandarin vocabulary and grammar, but many common words used in spoken Taishanese have no corresponding Chinese characters. No standard romanization system for Taishanese exists either; the ones given on this page are ad hoc. The at the bottom of this page contains a standard Taishanese romanization, used in its dictionary.

The sound represented by the symbol is particularly challenging, as it has no standard romanization. The digraph "lh" used above to represent this sound is used in Totonac, Chickasaw and Choctaw, which are among several written representations in the handful of languages that include the sound. The alternative "hl" is used in Xhosa and Zulu, while "ll" is used in .

The following chart compares the plural pronouns among Taishanese, mainstream Cantonese, and Mandarin.

Official and current status

Taishanese has no official status in any country. It was originally the secondary language of Ho Chi Minh City's Cholon, after Cantonese, but in recent years the number of Taishanese speakers in Vietnam has declined, giving way to Cantonese and .

Standard Cantonese Pinyin

Standard Cantonese Pinyin is a romanization system for Standard Cantonese developed by Yu Bingzhao in 1971, and subsequently modified by the Education Department and Zhan Bohui . It was used by ''Tongyin zihui'' , ''Cantonese Pronunciation list of Chinese Characters in Common Use'' , ''Dictionary of Standard Cantonese Pronunciation'' , and ''List of Chinese Characters in Common Use for Primary education'' . It is the only romanization system accepted by Education and Manpower Bureau of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority.

Note that the formal and short forms of the system’s Chinese names mean respectively “the ''Cantonese Pronunciation list of Chinese Characters in Common Use'' romanization system” and “the romanization system of the Education Bureau”.

Pinyin System

The Standard Cantonese Pinyin system directly corresponds to the , an -based phonemic transcription system used in ''A Chinese Syllabary Pronounced According to the Dialect of Canton'' by Wong Shik Ling. Generally, if an IPA symbol is also an , the same symbol is used directly in the romanization ; and if the IPA symbol is not an English letter, it is romanized using English letters. Thus, →aa, →a, →e, →o, /?/→oe, →ng. This results in a system which is both easy to learn and type, but at the same time still useful for academics.

In the following table, the first row inside a square shows the Standard Cantonese Pinyin, the second row shows a representative “narrow transcription” in IPA, while the third row shows the corresponding IPA “broad transcription” using the S. L. Wong system.



* The finals ''m'' and ''ng'' can only be used as standalone syllables.


Standard Cantonese has nine in six distinct tone contours.

Compare with Yale Romanization

Standard Cantonese Pinyin and the represent Cantonese pronunciations with the same letters in:
* The s: ''b'', ''p'', ''m'', ''f'', ''d'', ''t'', ''n'', ''l'', ''g'', ''k'', ''ng'', ''h'', ''s'', ''gw'', ''kw'', ''w''.
* The vowel: ''aa'' , ''a'', ''e'', ''i'', ''o'', ''u''.
* The nasal consonant: ''m'', ''ng''.
* The : ''i'' , ''u'', ''m'', ''n'', ''ng'', ''p'', ''t'', ''k''.
But they have difference with the following exceptions:
* The vowels ''oe'' represent and in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while the ''eu'' represents both vowels in Yale.
* The vowel ''y'' represent in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while both ''yu'' and ''i'' is used in Yale.
* The ''j'' represents in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while ''y'' is used instead in Yale.
* The initial ''dz'' represents in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while ''j'' is used instead in Yale.
* The initial ''ts'' represents in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while ''ch'' is used instead in Yale.
* In Standard Cantonese Pinyin, if no consonant precedes the vowel ''y'', then the initial ''j'' is appended before the vowel. In Yale, the corresponding initial ''yu'' is never appended before ''yu'' under any circumstances.
* Some new s can be written in Standard Cantonese Pinyin is not contained in Yale romanization schemes, such as: ''eu'' , ''em'' , and ''ep'' . These three finals are used in colloquial Cantonese words, such as ''deu6'' , ''lem2'' , and ''gep9'' .
* To represent s, only tone numbers are used in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while Yale originally uses tone marks together with the letter ''h'' .

Compare with Jyutping

Standard Cantonese Pinyin and Jyutping represent Cantonese pronunciations with the same letters in:
* The s: ''b'', ''p'', ''m'', ''f'', ''d'', ''t'', ''n'', ''l'', ''g'', ''k'', ''ng'', ''h'', ''s'', ''gw'', ''kw'', ''j'', ''w''.
* The vowel: ''aa'', ''a'', ''e'', ''i'', ''o'', ''u''.
* The nasal consonant: ''m'', ''ng''.
* The : ''i'' , ''u'', ''m'', ''n'', ''ng'', ''p'', ''t'', ''k''.
But they have difference with the following exceptions:
* The vowels ''oe'' represent and in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while the ''eo'' and ''oe'' represent and respectively in Jyutping.
* The vowel ''y'' represent in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while both ''yu'' and ''i'' is used in Jyutping.
* The initial ''dz'' represents in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while ''z'' is used instead in Jyutping.
* The initial ''ts'' represents in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while ''c'' is used instead in Jyutping.
* To represent s, number 1 to 9 are usually used in Standard Cantonese Pinyin, although use 1, 3, 6 to replace 7, 8, 9 is acceptable. However, only number 1 to 6 are used in Jyutping.


Try to write an old Chinese poem:

Standard Cantonese

Standard Cantonese is the standard of the language. It is spoken natively in and around the cities of Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau in China. Standard Cantonese is the de facto official language of Hong Kong and Macau, and a lingua franca of and some neighbouring areas. It is also spoken by many overseas Chinese of Guangdong, Hong Kong or Macau origin in Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, United States, Australia, Europe and elsewhere. Historically, Cantonese was the most common form of Chinese spoken by overseas Chinese communities in the Western world, although that situation has changed with the increasing importance of Mandarin in the Chinese-speaking world as well as immigration to the West from other countries as well as other parts of China.

In popular speech, Standard Cantonese is often known simply as ''Cantonese'', though in academic linguistics the name can also refer to the broader category to which it belongs, . Standard Cantonese is also known popularly as Guangdong speech or as the Canton Prefecture speech . To its speakers in Mainland China, Standard Cantonese is called Plain Speech meaning "vernacular Chinese." Outside of Mainland China, Standard Cantonese is called Guangdong speech.


Like any dialect, the phonology of Standard Cantonese varies among speakers. Unlike Standard Mandarin, there is no official agency to regulate Standard Cantonese. Below is the phonology accepted by most scholars and educators, the one usually heard on TV or radio in formal broadcast like news reports. Common variations are also described.

There are about 630 different extant combinations of syllable onsets and syllable rimes , not counting tones. Some of these, such as and , , are not common any more; some such as and , or and which has traditionally had two equally correct pronunciations are beginning to be pronounced with only one particular way uniformly by its speakers thus making the ''unused'' sounds effectively disappear from the language; while some such as , , , have alternative nonstandard pronunciations which have become mainstream , again making some of the sounds disappear from the everyday use of the language; and yet others such as , , have become popularly believed to be made-up/borrowed words to represent sounds in modern vernacular Cantonese when they have in fact been retaining those sounds before these vernacular usages became popular.

On the other hand, there are new words in Cantonese circulating in Hong Kong which use sounds which never appeared in Cantonese before, such as get1 , the sound is borrowed from the English word ''gag'' to mean the act of amusing others by a joke.


are initial consonants of possible syllables. The following is the inventory for Standard Cantonese as represented in :

Note the contrast and the lack of phonation contrast for . The are grouped with the stops for compactness in displaying the chart.

Some linguists prefer to analyze and as part of to make them analogous to the and s in Standard Mandarin, especially in comparative phonological studies. However, since final-heads only appear with , or , analyzing them as part of the initials greatly reduces the count of finals at the cost of only adding four initials. Some linguists analyze a when a vowel other than , or begins a syllable.

The position of the varies from to , with and more likely to be dental. The position of the , , and are usually alveolar , but can be or , especially before the front high vowels, , or .

Some native speakers cannot distinguish between and , and between and the null initial. Usually they pronounce only and the null initial. See the discussion on phonological shift below.


are the remaining part of the syllable after the initial is taken off. There are two kinds of finals in Cantonese, depending on vowel length. The following chart lists all possible finals in Standard Cantonese as represented in :

:Syllabic nasals:
:?Finals , and only appear in colloquial speech. They are absent from some analyses and romanization schemes.

Based on the chart above, the following central vowels pairs are usually considered to be allophones:
: - , - , - , - , and - .
Although that satisfies the minimal pair requirement, some linguists find it difficult to explain why the coda affects the vowel length. They recognize the following two allophone groups instead:
: - and - - .
In that way, the phoneme set consists of seven long central vowels and three short central vowels that are in contrast with three of the long vowels, as presented in the following chart:

:Syllabic nasals:


Standard Cantonese has nine in six distinct tone contours.

For purposes of in Chinese poetry, the first and fourth tones are the "level tones" , while the rest are the "oblique tones" .

The first tone can be either high level or high falling without affecting the meaning of the words being spoken. Most speakers are in general not consciously aware of when they use and when to use high level and high falling. In Hong Kong, the high level is more usual. In Guangzhou, the high falling tone is more usual.

The numbers "394052786" when pronounced in Cantonese, will give the nine tones in order , thus giving a good mnemonic for remembering the nine tones.

It is interesting to note that there are not actually more tone ''levels'' in Standard Cantonese than in Standard Mandarin , only Cantonese has a more complete set of tone courses.

Cantonese preserves the distinction in Middle Chinese in the manner shown in the chart below.

V− = voiceless initial consonant, V+ = voiced initial consonant. The distinction of consonants found in Middle Chinese was preserved by the distinction of tones in Cantonese. The vowel length further affects the Upper Entering tone.

Cantonese is special in the way that the vowel length can affect both the rhyme and the tone. Some linguists believe that the vowel length feature may have roots in Old Chinese language.

Phonological shifts

Like other languages, Cantonese is constantly undergoing sound changes, processes where more and more native speakers of a language change the pronunciations of certain sounds.

Previous shifts

One shift that affected Cantonese in the past was the loss of distinction between the alveolar and the alveolo-palatal sibilants, which occurred during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This distinction was documented in many Cantonese dictionaries and pronunciation guides published prior to the 1950s but is no longer distinguished in any modern Cantonese dictionary.

Publications that documented this distinction include:
* Williams, S., ''A Tonic Dictionary of the Chinese Language in the Canton Dialect'', 1856.
* Cowles, R., ''A Pocket Dictionary of Cantonese'', 1914.
* , ''The Student's Cantonese-English Dictionary'', 3rd edition, 1947.
* ''Cantonese Primer'', 1947.

The depalatalization of sibilants caused many words that were once distinct to sound the same. For comparison, this distinction is still made in modern Standard Mandarin, with the old alveolo-palatal sibilants in Cantonese corresponding to the sibilants in Mandarin. For instance:

Even though the aforementioned references observed the distinction, most of them also noted that the depalatalization phenomenon was already occurring at the time. Williams writes:

Cowles adds:

A vestige of this palatalization difference is sometimes reflected in the . For instance, many names will be spelled with ''sh'' even though the "''sh'' sound" is no longer used to pronounce the word. Examples include the surname , which is often romanized as ''Shek'', and the names of places like Sha Tin .

After the shift was complete, even though the alveolo-palatal sibilants were no longer distinguished, they still continue to occur in complementary distribution with the alveolar sibilants, making the two groups of sibilants allophones. Thus, most modern Cantonese speakers will pronounce the alveolar sibilants unless the following vowel is , , or , in which case the alveolo-palatal is pronounced. attempts to reflect this phenomenon in its romanization scheme, even though most current Cantonese romanization schemes don't.

The alveolo-palatal sibilants occur in complementary distribution with the retroflex sibilants in Mandarin as well, with the alveolo-palatal sibilants only occurring before , or . However, Mandarin also retains the s, where and can occur, as can be seen in the examples above. Cantonese had lost its medials sometime ago in its history, reducing the ability for speakers to distinguish its sibilant initials.

Current shifts

In modern-day Hong Kong, many younger native speakers are unable to distinguish between certain phoneme pairs and merge one sound into another. Although that is often considered as substandard and is denounced as being "lazy sounds" , it is becoming more common and is influencing other Cantonese-speaking regions.


There are several major romanization schemes for Cantonese: Barnett-Chao, Meyer-Wempe, the Chinese government's Guangdong romanization, and . While they do not differ greatly, Yale is the one most commonly seen in the west today. The Hong Kong linguist Sidney Lau modified the Yale system for his popular Cantonese-as-a-second-language course, so that is another system used today by contemporary Cantonese learners.

Early Western effort

Systematic efforts to develop an alphabetic representation of Cantonese pronunciation began with the arrival of Protestant missionaries in China early in the nineteenth century. Romanization was considered both a tool to help new missionaries learn the dialect more easily and a quick route for the unlettered to achieve gospel literacy. Earlier Catholic missionaries, mostly Portuguese, had developed romanization schemes for the pronunciation current in the court and capitol city of China but made few efforts at romanizing other dialects.

, the first Protestant missionary in China published a "Vocabulary of the Canton Dialect" with a rather unsystematic romanized pronunciation. Elijah Coleman Bridgman and Samuel Wells Williams in their "Chinese Chrestomathy in the Canton Dialect" were the progenitors of a long-lived lineage of related romanizations with minor variations embodied in the works of James Dyer Ball, Ernest John Eitel, and Immanuel Gottlieb Gen?hr . Bridgman and Williams based their system on the phonetic alphabet and diacritics proposed by for South Asian languages. Their romanization system embodied the phonological system in a local dialect rhyme dictionary, the Fenyun cuoyao, which was widely used and easily available at the time and is still available today. Samuel Wells Willams' ''Tonic Dictionary of the Chinese Language in the Canton Dialect'' , is an alphabetic rearrangement, translation and annotation of the Fenyun. In order to adapt the system to the needs of users at a time when there were only local variants and no standard -- although the speech of the western suburbs, xiguan, of Guangzhou was the prestige variety at the time -- Williams suggested that users learn and follow their teacher's pronunciation of his chart of Cantonese syllables. It was apparently Bridgman's innovation to mark the tones with an open circles or an underlined open circle at the four corners of the romanized word in analogy with the traditional Chinese system of marking the tone of a character with a circle . , in his "English and Cantonese pocket-dictionary" simplified the marking of tones using the acute accent to mark "rising" tones and the grave to mark "going" tones and no diacritic for "even" tones and marking upper register tones by italics . "Entering" tones could be distinguished by their consonantal ending. Nicholas Belfeld Dennys used Chalmers romanization in his primer. This method of marking tones was adopted in the Yale romanization . A new romanization was developed in the first decade of the twentieth century which eliminated the diacritics on vowels by distinguishing vowel quality by spelling differences . Diacritics were used only for marking tones. The name of Tipson is associated with this new romanization which still embodied the phonology of the Fenyun to some extent. It is the system used in Meyer-Wempe and Cowles' dictionaries and O'Melia's textbook and many other works in the first half of the twentieth century. It was the standard romanization until the Yale system supplanted it. The distinguished linguist, Y. R. Chao developed a Cantonese adaptation of his Gwoyeu romanization system which he used in his "Cantonese Primer." The front matter to this book contains a review and comparison of a number of the systems mentioned in this paragraph. The GR system was not widely used.

Cantonese research in Hong Kong

An influential work on Cantonese, A Chinese Syllabary Pronounced According to the Dialect of Canton, written by Wong Shik Ling, was published in 1941. He derived an IPA-based transcription system for Cantonese, , with many Chinese dictionaries published later in Hong Kong being based on this transcription system. Although Wong also derived a romanisation scheme, also known as , it is not widely used as his transcription scheme.

The one advocated by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong is called jyutping, which solves many of the inconsistencies and problems of the older, favored, and more familiar system of Yale Romanization, but departs considerably from it in a number of ways unfamiliar to Yale users. The phonetic values of letters are not quite familiar to whom had studied English. Some effort has been undertaken to promote jyutping, with some official supports, but it is too early to tell how successful it is.

Another popular scheme is Standard Cantonese Pinyin Schemes, which is the only romanization system accepted by Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau and Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. Books and studies for teachers and students in primary and secondary schools usually use this scheme. But there is quite a lot teachers and students using the transcription system of S. L. Wong.

However, learners may feel frustrated that most native Cantonese speakers, no matter how educated they are, really are not familiar with any romanization system. Apparently, there is no motive for local people to learn any of these systems. The romanization systems are not included in the education system either in Hong Kong or in Guangdong province. In practice, Hong Kong people follow a loose unnamed romanisation scheme used by the Hong Kong Government.

Written Cantonese

Cantonese is usually referred to as a spoken dialect, and not as a written dialect. Spoken vernacular Cantonese differs from modern written Chinese, which is essentially formal Standard Mandarin in written form. Written Chinese spoken word for word sounds overly formal and distant in Cantonese. As a result, the necessity of having a written script which matched the spoken form increased over time. This resulted in the creation of additional Chinese characters to complement the existing characters. Many of these represent phonological sounds not present in Mandarin. A good source for well documented Cantonese words can be found in drama and scripts. Written Cantonese is largely incomprehensible to non-Cantonese speakers because written Cantonese is based on spoken Cantonese which is different from Standard Mandarin in grammar and vocabulary.

"Readings in Cantonese colloquial: being selections from books in the Cantonese vernacular with free and literal translations of the Chinese character and romanized spelling" by James Dyer Ball has a bibliography of works available in Cantonese characters in the last decade of the nineteenth century. A few libraries have collections of so-called "wooden fish books" written in Cantonese character. Facsimiles and plot precis of a few of these have been published in Wolfram Eberhard's "Cantonese Ballads." See also "Cantonese love-songs, translated with introduction and notes by Cecil Clementi" or a newer translation of these Yue Ou in "Cantonese love songs : an English translation of Jiu Ji-yung's Cantonese songs of the early 19th century" . Cantonese character versions of the Bible, Pilgrims Progress, and Peep of Day as well as simple catechisms were published by mission presses. The special Cantonese characters used in all these was not standardized and shows wide variation.

With the advent of the computer and standardization of character sets specifically for Cantonese, many printed materials in predominantly Cantonese speaking areas of the world are written to cater to their population with these written Cantonese characters. As a result, mainstream media such as newspapers and magazines have become progressively less conservative and more colloquial in their dissemination of ideas. Generally speaking, some of the older generation of Cantonese speakers regard this trend as a step "backwards" and away from tradition. This tension between the "old" and "new" is a reflection of a transition that is being undergone by the Cantonese speaking population.

is, in essence, written Standard Mandarin. When standard written Chinese is read aloud with Cantonese sound values, the result sounds stilted and unnatural because it is different from normal spoken Cantonese. Written Cantonese is spoken Cantonese written as it is actually spoken. Unusual for a regional Chinese language, Cantonese has a written form, developed over the last few decades in Hong Kong, and includes many unique characters that are not found in . Readers who understand standard written Chinese but do not know Cantonese often find written Cantonese hard to understand or even unintelligible as it is different from standard written Chinese in grammar and vocabulary. However, written Cantonese is commonly used informally among Cantonese speakers. Circumstances where written Cantonese is used include conversations through instant messaging services, letters, notes, entertainment magazines and entertainment sections of newspapers, and sometimes s in Hong Kong movies, and advertisements. It rarely finds its way into the subtitles of Western movies or TV shows, though The Simpsons is a notable exception. Cantonese Opera scripts also use the Cantonese written vernacular.

Historically, written Cantonese has been used in Hong Kong for legal proceedings in order to write down the exact spoken testimony of a witness, instead of paraphrasing spoken Cantonese into standard written Chinese. Newspapers have also done likewise to capture more exact quotes. Its popularity and usage has been rising in the last two decades, the late Wong Jim being one of the pioneers of its use as an effective written language. Written colloquial Cantonese has become quite popular in certain tabloids, online chat rooms, and instant messaging. Some tabloids like Apple Daily write colloquial Cantonese; papers may contain editorials that contain Cantonese; and Cantonese-specific characters can be increasingly seen on advertisements and billboards. Written Cantonese remains limited outside of Hong Kong, even in other Cantonese-speaking areas such as Guangdong, where the use of colloquial writing is discouraged. Despite the relative popularity of written Cantonese in Hong Kong, some disdain it, believing that being too accustomed to write in such a way would affect a person's ability to use standard written Chinese in situations that demand it.

Forms of written Chinese in Hong Kong:

# Standard Written Chinese used in Hong Kong SAR post-WWII Vernacular Reformation.
# Colloquial Written Cantonese - currently used in journals, advertisements, etc. in Hong Kong SAR, overseas Cantonese Chinese communities.
# Classical Cantonese Chinese - a reconstructed Neo-Classical written Chinese forms widely used in 1900s-90s Hong Kong in Cantonese opera lyrics, Cantonese Chinese poetic forms and especially in 80s cantopop.
# Classical Chinese known as - a written Chinese form in poems and writings from the dynastic periods.

For colloquial vernacular usage, written Cantonese incorporates an entire range of characters and particles specific to the Cantonese spoken form. This is commonly used in publicity and journalistic writing in Hong Kong and Hong Kong-influenced regions. It reads exactly as Modern Standard Spoken Cantonese.

For literary and artistic reasons , standard literary Chinese, the classical wenyanwan is used.

Records of legal documents in Hong Kong also use written Cantonese sometimes, in order to record exactly what a witness has said.

Colloquial Cantonese is rarely used in formal forms of writing; formal written communication is almost always in standard written Chinese, albeit still pronounced with Cantonese sound values. However, written colloquial Cantonese does exist; it is used mostly for transcription of speech in tabloids, in some broadsheets, for some subtitles, for personal diaries, and in other informal forms of communication such as Internet bulletin boards or e-mails. It is not uncommon to see the front page of a Cantonese paper written in hanyu, while the entertainment sections are, at least partly, in Cantonese. The vernacular writing system has evolved over time from a process of modifying characters to express lexical and syntactic elements found in Cantonese but not the standard written language. In spite of their vernacular origin and informal use, these characters have become so common in Hong Kong that the Hong Kong Government has incorporated them into a special , as the same as special characters used for proper nouns.

A problem for the student of Cantonese is the lack of a widely accepted, standardized transcription system. Another problem is with Chinese characters: Cantonese uses the same system of characters as standard written Chinese, but it often uses different words, which have to be written with different or new characters. An example of Cantonese using a different word and a different character to write it: the Mandarin word for "to be" is shì and is written as , but in Cantonese the word for "to be" is hai6 and is used in written Cantonese . In standard written Chinese is normally used, though can be found in classical literature and modern legal writing. In Hong Kong, is often used in colloquial written Cantonese and therefore actively avoided and discouraged in formal writing; on the other hand, the use of is relatively widespread in both mainland China and in Taiwan, in government publications and product descriptions, for example.

Many characters used in colloquial Cantonese writings are made up by putting a mouth radical on the left hand side of another more well known character to indicate that the character is read like the right hand side, but it is only used phonetically in the Cantonese context. The characters , , , , , , , , , , , }, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , etc. are commonly used in Cantonese writing.

As not all Cantonese words can be found in current encoding system, or the users simply do not know how to enter such characters on the computer, in very informal speech, Cantonese tends to use extremely simple romanization , symbols , homophones , and Chinese characters of different Mandarin meaning to compose a message.

For example, "" is often written in easier form as "" .

Other common characters are unique to Cantonese or deviated from their Standard Chinese usage; these include: , , , , , , , etc.

The words represented by these characters are sometimes cognates with pre-existing Chinese words. However, their colloquial Cantonese pronunciations have diverged from formal Cantonese pronunciations. For example, in formal written Chinese, is the character used for "without". In spoken Cantonese, has the same usage, meaning, and pronunciation as , differing only by tone. is actually a hollowed out writing of its antonym . represents the spoken Cantonese form of the word "without", while represents the word used in formal Chinese writing . However, is still used in some instances in spoken Chinese in both dialects, like . A Cantonese-specific example is the , which means "to come". is used in formal writing; is the spoken Cantonese form.

Cultural role

China has numerous regional and local varieties of spoken Chinese, many of which are mutually unintelligible; most of these are rarely used or heard outside their native areas, and are not used in education, formal purposes, or in the media. Regional/local dialects in mainland China and Taiwan tend to be used primarily within their local region with other native speakers, with Standard Mandarin being used for official purposes, in the media, and as the language of education. Even though the majority of Cantonese speakers live in mainland China, due to the linguistic history of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as its use in many overseas Chinese communities, the use of Standard Cantonese has spread from Guangdong far out of proportion to its relatively small number of speakers in China.

As the majority of Hong Kong and Macau people and/or their ancestors emigrated from Guangdong before the widespread use of Standard Mandarin, Cantonese became the usual and only spoken variety of Chinese in Hong Kong and Macau. Cantonese is the only Chinese variety to be used in official contexts other than Standard Mandarin, which is the official language of both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China. Also because of its use by non-Mandarin speaking Cantonese speakers overseas, Cantonese is one of the primary forms of Chinese that many Westerners come into contact with.

Along with Mandarin and Taiwanese, Cantonese is also one of the few Chinese spoken varieties which has its own popular music . The prevalence of Hong Kong's popular culture has spurred some Chinese in other regions to learn Cantonese. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is dominant in the domain of popular music, and many artists from Beijing and Taiwan have to learn Cantonese so that they can make Cantonese versions of their recordings especially for distribution in Hong Kong. Some singers including Faye Wong and Eric Moo, and singers from Taiwan, have been trained in Cantonese to add "Hong Kong-ness" to their performances In addition, virtually all Shanghai people can speak Standard Mandarin and use Shanghainese only with other Shanghainese speakers. Therefore, Shanghainese is rarely used outside of the city. This applies to many local varieties of Chinese. Hong Kong people do not speak Standard Mandarin and continue to use Cantonese as the only spoken form of Chinese. However, spurred on by the success of Cantonese, some Wu speakers have begun to promote their mother tongue.


Life in Hong Kong is characterised by the blending of Asian and Western influences, as well as the status of the city as a major international business centre. Influences from this territory are widespread in foreign cultures. As a results, many loanwords are created and exported to , and Singapore. Some of the loanwords are even more popular than their Chinese counterparts. At the same time, some new words created are vividly borrowed by other languages as well.

Cantonese versus Mandarin in Hong Kong and Singapore

The so-called "Battle between Cantonese and Mandarin" started in Hong Kong in the mid-1980s when a large number of non-Cantonese speaking mainland Chinese people started crossing the border into Hong Kong during Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms. At that time, Hong Kong and Macau were still and protectorates respectively, and Mandarin was not often heard in those territories. Today Mandarin is often taught as a second language in those areas, but is not used at all in daily life by anyone except immigrants from the non-Cantonese speaking parts of the mainland. Businesspeople from the mainland and the colonies who did not share a common language shared a mutual dislike and distrust of one another, and in magazines in China in the mid-1980s, they would publish polemics against the other's language - thus Cantonese became known on the mainland as "British Chinese" - and Mandarin became known as "流氓話 Lau Man Waa" - literally "outlaw speech" - in the colonies.

In Singapore the government has had a Speak Mandarin Campaign which seeks to actively promote the use of Standard Mandarin Chinese instead of dialects, such as , , Cantonese , and Hainanese. This was seen as a way of creating greater cohesion among the ethnic Chinese. In addition to positive promotion of Mandarin, the campaign also includes active attempts to dissuade people from using Chinese dialects. Most notably, the use of dialects in local broadcast media is banned, and access to foreign media in dialect is limited.
Some believe that the Singaporean Government has gone too far in its endeavour. Some Taiwanese songs in some Taiwanese entertainment programmes have been singled out and censored. Japanese and Korean drama series are available in their original languages on TV to the viewers, but Hong Kong drama series on non-cable TV channels are always dubbed in Mandarin and broadcast in Singapore without their original Cantonese soundtrack. Some Cantonese speakers in Singapore feel the dubbing causes the series to sound very unnatural and lose much of its flavour.

An offshoot of SMC is the Pinyinisation of certain terms which originated from southern Chinese languages. For instance, dim sum is often known as ''dianxin'' in Singapore's English language media, though this is largely a matter of style, and most Singaporeans will refer to dim sum when speaking English. Another result of SMC is that most young Singaporeans from Cantonese speaking families are unable to understand or speak Cantonese. The situation is very different in nearby Malaysia, where even most non-Cantonese speaking Chinese can understand the dialect to a certain extent through exposure to the language.


Simplifications to written Chinese in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the Cantonese language is commonly used in daily life. have always been used as the de facto standard character set in Hong Kong since Imperial China era till the present day. This article discusses the simplifications performed on written Chinese that could be found in informal communications in Hong Kong. It should be noted that the debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters has been ongoing for some time.

Background information

The of the People's Republic of China has been promoting the use of simplified Chinese characters in mainland China since their inception in 1949, and adopted the character set as the standard writing system of from 1956 onwards. Nevertheless, since Hong Kong was a British crown colony before 1997, and was granted after 1997, simplified Chinese character has never been officially recognised in Hong Kong. Traditional Chinese character has always been used as the de facto standard character set in Hong Kong since Imperial China era till the present day.

Customary, unregulated simplification of Chinese characters have been evolved by the general public to increase efficiency for writing particular complex characters in informal situations. This practice is commonly used by waiters in restaurants and s. Sometimes, even English words or other symbols are used as substitutes for complex characters.

Since the above practice is not officially regulated, the method of simplification varies from person to person, and may be incomprehensible to other Chinese readers. The practice is generally regarded as being in the domain of the uneducated, and is rarely seen in formal occasions.

Types of simplification

# The simplification can be done by replacing a complicated traditional Chinese character with another simpler traditional Chinese character that has a similar pronunciation in .
# The simplification is often done by using English letters to make up a "word" that sounds like the Chinese word.
# The simplification can also be done by incorporating regulation simplified Chinese characters into text made up of traditional Chinese characters.

Examples of simplifications

Note: sounds like ; the simplification to "0" is very common and can be seen on bottled drinks and receipts.