Yale romanization of Cantonese

The Yale romanization of Cantonese was developed by Gerard P. Kok for his and Parker Po-fei Huang's textbook Speak Cantonese initially circulated in looseleaf form in 1952[1] but later published in 1958.[2] Unlike the Yale romanization of Mandarin, it is still widely used in books and dictionaries, especially for foreign learners of Cantonese. It shares some similarities with Hanyu Pinyin in that unvoiced, unaspirated consonants are represented by letters traditionally used in English and most other European languages to represent voiced sounds. For example, [p] is represented as b in Yale, whereas its aspirated counterpart, [pʰ] is represented as p.[3] Students attending The Chinese University of Hong Kong's New-Asia Yale-in-China Chinese Language Center are taught using Yale romanization.[4]

Traditional Chinese耶魯
Simplified Chinese耶鲁
Cantonese YaleYèh-lóuh






Cantonese Tones
Graphical representation of the tones of six-tone Cantonese.

Modern Cantonese has up to seven phonemic tones. Cantonese Yale represents these tones using a combination of diacritics and the letter h.[5][6] Traditional Chinese linguistics treats the tones in syllables ending with a stop consonant as separate "entering tones". Cantonese Yale follows modern linguistic conventions in treating these the same as the high-flat, mid-flat and low-flat tones, respectively.

No. Description IPA & Chao
tone numbers
Yale representation
1 high-flat ˥ 55 sīn sīk
high-falling ˥˨ 52 sìn
2 mid-rising ˨˥ 25 sín
3 mid-flat ˧ 33 si sin sik
4 low-falling ˨˩ 21 sìh sìhn
5 low-rising ˨˧ 23 síh síhn
6 low-flat ˨ 22 sih sihn sihk


Traditional Simplified Romanization
廣州話 广州话 Gwóngjàuwá
粵語 粤语 Yuhtyúh
你好 Néih hóu

Sample transcription of one of the 300 Tang Poems by Meng Haoran:

Chēun híu
Maahng Houh-yìhn
春眠不覺曉, Chēun mìhn bāt gok híu,
處處聞啼鳥。 chyu chyu màhn tàih níuh.
夜來風雨聲, yeh lòih fūng yúh sīng,
花落知多少? fā lohk jī dō síu?

See also


  1. ^ Huang, Parker Po-fei (1965). Cantonese Sounds and Tones. New Haven, CT: Far Eastern Publications, Yale University. p. Foreword.
  2. ^ The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Chinese Language, p. 40.
  3. ^ "Cantonese". Omniglot. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  4. ^ "CUHK Teaching Materials". Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  5. ^ Ng Lam & Chik 2000: 515. "Appendix 3: Tones. The student of Cantonese will be well aware of the importance of tones in conveying meaning. Basically, there are seven tones which, in the Yale system, are represented by the use of diacritics and by the insertion of h for ..."
  6. ^ Gwaan 2000: 7. "Basically, there are seven tones which, in the Yale system, are represented by the use of diacritics and by the insertion of h for the three low tones. The following chart will illustrate the seven tones: 3 Mid Level, 1 High Level, 5 Low Falling, 6 Low Level..."

Further reading

  • Gwaan, Choi-wa 關彩華 (2000). English-Cantonese Dictionary - 英粤字典: Cantonese in Yale Romanization (2nd ed.). Chinese University Press. ISBN 962-201-970-6.
  • Matthews, Stephen & Yip, Virginia (1994). Cantonese. A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-08945-X.
  • Ng Lam, Sim-yuk & Chik, Hon-man (2000). Chinese-English Dictionary 漢英小字典: Cantonese in Yale Romanization, Mandarin in Pinyin. Chinese University Press. ISBN 962-201-922-6.

External links


Cantonese is a variety of Chinese spoken in the city of Guangzhou (also known as Canton) and its surrounding area in Southeastern China. It is the traditional prestige variety and standard form of Yue Chinese, one of the major subgroups of Chinese.

In mainland China, it is the lingua franca of the province of Guangdong (being the majority language of the Pearl River Delta) and neighbouring areas such as Guangxi. It is the dominant and official language of Hong Kong and Macau. Cantonese is also widely spoken amongst Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia (most notably in Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in Singapore and Cambodia to a lesser extent) and throughout the Western world.

While the term Cantonese specifically refers to the prestige variety, it is often used in a broader sense for the entire Yue subgroup of Chinese, including related but largely mutually unintelligible languages and dialects such as Taishanese. When Cantonese and the closely related Yuehai dialects are classified together, there are about 80 million total speakers. Cantonese is viewed as a vital and inseparable part of the cultural identity for its native speakers across large swaths of Southeastern China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as in overseas communities.

Although Cantonese shares a lot of vocabulary with Mandarin, the two varieties are mutually unintelligible because of differences in pronunciation, grammar and lexicon. Sentence structure, in particular the placement of verbs, sometimes differs between the two varieties. A notable difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is how the spoken word is written; both can be recorded verbatim, but very few Cantonese speakers are knowledgeable in the full Cantonese written vocabulary, so a non-verbatim formalized written form is adopted, which is more akin to the Mandarin written form. This results in the situation in which a Cantonese and a Mandarin text may look similar but are pronounced differently.

Cantonese Braille

Cantonese Braille (Chinese: 粵語點字) is a braille script used to write Cantonese in Hong Kong and Macau. It is locally referred to as tim chi (點字 dim2zi6) 'dot characters', or more commonly but ambiguously tuk chi (凸字 dat6zi6) 'raised characters'. Although Cantonese is written in Chinese characters, Cantonese Braille is purely phonetic, with punctuation, digits, and Latin letters from the original Braille. It can be mixed with English text.

Cantonese Pinyin

Cantonese Pinyin (Chinese: 常用字廣州話讀音表:拼音方案, also known as 教院式拼音方案) is a romanization system for Cantonese developed by Rev. Yu Ping Chiu (余秉昭) in 1971, and subsequently modified by the Education Department (merged into the Education and Manpower Bureau since 2003) of Hong Kong and Prof. Zhan Bohui (詹伯慧) of the Chinese Dialects Research Centre of the Jinan University, Guangdong, PRC, and honorary professor of the School of Chinese, University of Hong Kong. It is the only romanization system accepted by Education and Manpower Bureau of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority.

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 Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau".

Cantonese grammar

Cantonese is an analytic language in which the arrangement of words in a sentence is important to its meaning. A basic sentence is in the form of SVO, i.e. a subject is followed by a verb then by an object, though this order is often violated because Cantonese is a Topic-prominent language. Unlike synthetic languages, seldom do words indicate time, gender and plural by inflection. Instead, these concepts are expressed through adverbs, aspect markers, and particles, or are deduced from the context. Different particles are added to a sentence to further specify its status or intonation.

A verb itself indicates no tense. The time can be explicitly shown with time-indicating adverbs. Certain exceptions exist, however, according to the pragmatic interpretation of a verb's meaning. Additionally, an optional aspect particle can be appended to a verb to indicate the state of an event. Appending interrogative or exclamative particles to a sentence turns a sentence into a question or shows the attitudes of the speaker.

Cantonese nasal-stop alternation

In Cantonese phonology, a close relationship exists between the nasal codas (-m, -n, -ŋ) and the stop codas (-p, -t, -k). These two types of codas can also be classified into three homorganic pairs: the bilabial m/p, the dental n/t, and the velar ŋ/k. Their close association is best evidenced by the very fact that all stop sounds come from nasal sounds.

Cantonese phonology

The standard pronunciation of Cantonese is that of Guangzhou, also known as Canton, the capital of Guangdong Province. Hong Kong Cantonese is related to the Guangzhou dialect, and the two diverge only slightly. Yue dialects in other parts of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, such as Taishanese, may be considered divergent to a greater degree.

Cantonese pronouns

Pronouns in Cantonese are less numerous than their Indo-European languages counterparts. Cantonese uses pronouns that apply the same meaning to function as both subjective (English: I, he, we) and objective (me, him, us) just like many other Sinitic languages.

Cities of East Asia

List of major cities in East Asia.

Index of China-related articles (M–Z)

The following is a breakdown of the list of China-related topics.

JSL romanization

JSL is a romanization system for transcribing the Japanese language into the Latin script. It was devised by Eleanor Jorden for (and named after) her 1987 book Japanese: The Spoken Language. The system is based on Kunrei-shiki romanization.

It is designed for teaching spoken Japanese, and so, it follows Japanese phonemes fairly closely. For example, different conjugations of a verb may be achieved by changing the final vowel (as in the chart on the right), thus "bear[ing] a direct relation to Japanese structure" (in Jorden's words), whereas the common Hepburn romanization may require exceptions in some cases, in order to more clearly illustrate pronunciation to native English speakers.

JSL differs from Hepburn particularly in that it uses doubled vowels, rather than macrons, to represent the long vowels /oː/ and /ɯː/. Tokyo (Tōkyō) and Osaka (Ōsaka), for instance, would be written (Tookyoo) and (Oosaka) in JSL. Also, JSL represents ん, the syllabic n, as an "n" with a macron over it, (n̄), to avoid the practice that other systems use of sometimes writing (n) and sometimes (n') depending on the presence of a following vowel or (y).

There is a close tie between Japanese pronunciation and JSL, where one consistent symbol is given for each Japanese phoneme. This means that it does depart from Japanese orthography somewhat, as おう is romanized as (oo) when it indicates a long /oː/, but as (ou) when it indicates two distinct vowel sounds, such as in (omou) for 思う (おもう). Similarly, (ei) is reserved for the pronunciation [ei] only, whereas other romanization systems (including Hepburn) follow the hiragana orthography, therefore making it impossible to tell whether [eː] or [ei] are represented. It also distinguishes between (g), which is used when only a /ɡ/ sound is possible, and (ḡ), which is used when a velar nasal sound [ŋ] (the "ng" in the English word "singer") is also possible. The particles は and へ are romanized (wa) and (e), in accordance with their pronunciation. However, like Kunrei-shiki and Nihon-shiki, JSL does not distinguish between allophones in Japanese which are close to different phonemes in English.

JSL indicates the pitch accent of each mora. A vowel with an acute accent (´) denotes the first high-pitch mora, a grave accent (`) marks the last high-pitch mora, and a circumflex (ˆ) marks the only high-pitch mora in a word. In this system 日本 'Japan' would be written (nihôn) and 二本 'two (sticks)' as (nîhon), 端です 'It's the edge' would be (hasí dèsu) (standing for /hasi desu/ [hàɕi des(ɯ̀ᵝ)]. (This is why doubled vowels must be used instead of macrons.)


Jyutping (Chinese: 粵拼; Jyutping: Jyut6ping3; literally: 'Yue (i.e. Cantonese) spelling'; Cantonese pronunciation: [jỳːt̚.pʰēŋ]) is a romanisation system for Cantonese developed by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (LSHK), an academic group, in 1993. Its formal name is The Linguistic Society of Hong Kong Cantonese Romanisation Scheme. The LSHK promotes the use of this romanisation system.

The name Jyutping (itself the Jyutping romanisation of its Chinese name, 粵拼) is a contraction consisting of the first Chinese characters of the terms Jyut6jyu5 (粵語, meaning "Cantonese speech") and ping3jam1 (拼音 "phonetic alphabet").

List of Latin-script digraphs

This is a list of digraphs used in various Latin alphabets. Capitalization involves only the first letter (ch becomes Ch) unless otherwise stated (ij becomes IJ).

Letters with diacritics are arranged in alphabetic order according to their base: ⟨å⟩ is alphabetized with ⟨a⟩, not at the end of the alphabet, as it would be in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. Substantially-modified letters, such as ⟨ſ ⟩ (a variant of ⟨s⟩) and ⟨ɔ⟩ (based on ⟨o⟩), are placed at the end.

Macron (diacritic)

A macron () is a diacritical mark: it is a straight bar (¯) placed above a letter, usually a vowel. Its name derives from Greek, Modern μακρόν (makrón), meaning 'long', since it was originally used to mark long or heavy syllables in Greco-Roman metrics. It now more often marks a long vowel. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the macron is used to indicate a mid-tone; the sign for a long vowel is instead a modified triangular colon ⟨ː⟩.

The opposite is the breve ⟨˘⟩, which marks a short or light syllable or a short vowel.

Written Cantonese

Written Cantonese is the written form of Cantonese, the most complete written form of Chinese after that for Mandarin Chinese and Classical Chinese. Written Chinese was originally developed for Classical Chinese, and was the main literary language of China until the 19th century. Written vernacular Chinese first appeared in the 17th century and a written form of Mandarin became standard throughout China in the early 20th century. While the Mandarin form can in principle be read and spoken word for word in other Chinese varieties, its intelligibility to non-Mandarin speakers is poor to incomprehensible because of differences in idioms, grammar and usage. Modern Cantonese speakers have therefore developed their own written script, sometimes creating new characters for words that either do not exist or have been lost in standard Chinese.

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.

Yale romanization

The Yale romanizations are four romanization systems created at Yale University for the following four East Asian languages:

Yale romanization of Mandarin, developed in 1943 by the Yale sinologist George Kennedy.

Yale romanization of Cantonese, developed by Gerard P. Kok and published in 1958.

Yale romanization of Korean, developed by Samuel Elmo Martin and his colleagues at Yale University around 1942 about half a decade after McCune–Reischauer. It is the standard romanization of the Korean language in linguistics.

JSL romanization, a system for Japanese devised by Eleanor Jorden, which is sometimes called "Yale romanization".

Yale romanization of Korean

The Yale romanization of Korean was developed by Samuel Elmo Martin and his colleagues at Yale University about half a decade after McCune–Reischauer. It is the standard romanization of the Korean language in linguistics.

The Yale system places primary emphasis on showing a word's morphophonemic structure. This distinguishes it from the other two widely used systems for romanizing Korean, the Revised Romanization of Korean (RR) and McCune–Reischauer. These two usually provide the pronunciation for an entire word, but the morphophonemic elements accounting for that pronunciation often cannot be recovered from the romanizations, which makes them ill-suited for linguistic use. In terms of morphophonemic content, the Yale system's approach can be compared to North Korea's former New Korean Orthography.

The Yale system tries to use a single consistent spelling for each morphophonemic element irrespective of its context. But Yale and Hangul differ in how back vowels are handled.

Yale may be used for both modern Korean and Middle Korean. There are separate rules for Middle Korean. Martin's 1992 Reference Grammar of Korean uses italics for Middle Korean as well as other texts predating the 1933 abandonment of arae a, whereas it shows current language in boldface.

Yale romanization of Mandarin

The Yale romanization of Mandarin is a system for transcribing the sounds of Standard Chinese, based on Mandarin Chinese varieties spoken in and around Beijing. It was devised in 1943 by the Yale sinologist George Kennedy for a course teaching Chinese to American soldiers, and popularized by continued development of that course at Yale.

The system approximated Chinese sounds using English spelling conventions in order to accelerate acquisition of pronunciation by English speakers.The Yale romanization was widely used in Western textbooks until the late 1970s; in fact, during the height of the Cold War, preferring the Communist pinyin system over Yale romanization was something of a political statement. The situation was reversed once the relations between the People's Republic of China and the West had improved. Communist China (PRC) became a member of the United Nations in 1971 by replacing Nationalist China (ROC). By 1979, much of the world adopted pinyin as the standard romanization for Chinese geographical names. In 1982, pinyin became an ISO standard; interest in Yale Mandarin declined rapidly thereafter.

Yue: Cantonese
Yale RomanizationYèh-lóuh

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