The Cantonese language

Robert S. Bauer*, John Wakefield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This introductory chapter presents our readers with some basic, practical, and valuable information on a range of topics about Cantonese. Included among these topics are the following: our answer to the oft-asked question of how to classify Cantonese – as a language or a dialect?; why Cantonese romanizations are useful to both students and native speakers; the structure of the Cantonese syllable and a survey of consonants, vowels, rimes, and lexical tones that form the Cantonese sound system; the phenomenon of phonetic variation that is stigmatized as 懶音 laan5 jam1 (“lazy pronunciation”) with a list of lexical examples; some distinctive characteristics of Cantonese grammar; the written form of Cantonese which has cumulatively developed its own ad hoc conventions over the decades; and, lastly, our look ahead at the future of Hong Kong Cantonese. Readers will note that our treatment of the lexical tone system is quite comprehensive (relatively more so than might be expected), and this is because we recognize that understanding and producing Cantonese tones can be challenging for students. Taken together, this Introduction and its References can serve readers as a useful resource on Cantonese. More importantly, however, this introductory material provides valuable background and context that can help readers better understand and appreciate the issues that have been raised, analyzed, and discussed in the chapters that follow.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCantonese as a Second Language
Subtitle of host publicationIssues, Experiences and Suggestions for Teaching and Learning
EditorsJohn C. Wakefield
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9781351184250
ISBN (Print)9780815395195, 9781032093161
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Applied Linguistics

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The Cantonese language'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this