Is Cantonese a dialect or langauge?

Discussion in 'Chinese Chat' started by surplusletterbox, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. surplusletterbox

    surplusletterbox Well-Known Member

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    If it is a language then it should have better support and recognition internationally. I have looked at some linguistic aspects of Korean, Japanese and old Vietnamese (before Korean and Vietnamese phoneticise their languages) in the use of Hanzi, Hanja in these languages. In a similar way Cantonese use the Hanzi writing system. However the way Cantonese is spoken is not written down in the same way (a lot of word simply don't have a Hanzi word for it and the sentence construction is different since the Chinese language has little grammatical notation when compared with German especially). The same for Hakka, Chiu Chau etc...However in French, German and English you say it as you write it (nearly). In Europe when I look at the Indo-European languages , German notably, there is High German, Low German, Swiss German, Luxembourgish, Dutch, Flemish, Danish.. many of these Germanic variation are all languages in their own right. Likewise Cantonese should have its own writing system and hence can become an official language. How do you think? Should the Hanzi writing character set be expanded to include Cantonese, Hakka, ChiuChou..etc?
     
  2. tisazngotrice

    tisazngotrice Active Member

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    I believe Cantonese is a dialect of the Chinese language just like Mandarin, Hakka, Shanghainese, etc.
     
  3. wilsonli

    wilsonli Well-Known Member

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    Cantonese is just a dialect from Southern China, the only official language in China is Mandarin.
     
  4. ralphrepo

    ralphrepo Well-Known Member

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    Well, if I'm reading your question right, then yes and no. In the use of Hanzi, other non Han writing systems that took the logograms and then incorporated them with adaptation to their own linguistic usage, is one thing. Attempting to apply the same linguistic overlay principle to Cantonese (by inference, to then call it another language) is quite another. Further, I disagree that the subtle variations between Hoch and Platt Deutsch (in your example) would be justifiable qualifications for individual languages any more than Southern English should be considered that far different than English spoken in England. The basic language is the same, the bulk of the meaning and intent of the words and pronunciation too, are the same. I know what you're getting at though, that the phonetic differences of Japanese and Korean were overlaid onto Hanzi, and since Japanese and Korean are recognized as being different languages, then why not Cantonese too? It may be a valid technical (albeit simplistic) argument, but one that flies in the face of international convention. As such, one would have very little hope of success. Moreover, the application of Hanzi into the Japanese and Korean was only utilized as a transient stop gap methodology to fulfill a need whence those civilizations had no written script of their own. But both forms of these Hanzi based languages have since evolved into separate writing systems with distinct written adaptations afield of Hanzi whilst Cantonese has remain relatively static in its original form. Moreover, as for a hanzi writing character set? So far as I know, it already is inclusive of use in Cantonese, so perhaps I don't really understand what you're getting at? And yes traditional Hanzi characterizations did not include descriptions for things like say, ...computer. But even in other writing systems, that word would also be comparatively new. Even modern mandarin Chinese itself, when written, now utilizes two characters to express the meanings of things. The words themselves are often newly applied, as new meanings within the world come into play.

    One may rightfully make the claims that you're pursuing, if one bases it on differences like the traditional hanzi system versus say, an old Tungusic language like Manchu. Even as they both served the same Chinese population, they were of vast comparative written and linguistic differences that was in existence for a prolonged duration, serving a peoples for an extended period of time. But Chinese, and even Cantonese, has already been somewhat adapted to other writing systems too; the obsolete Wades system (as refined by Giles) of Romanization resulted, for example, in just about all the Cantonese street names that one sees in English whilst in Hong Kong. Of course, one then winds up with place names like tsim sha tsui, which to most English readers is unpronounceable and a linguistic failure.

    ADDENDUM: After reading back what I wrote, it's pretty clear that I'm not really understanding the question, LOL... Would the OP please come back and clarify?
     
    #4 ralphrepo, Apr 2, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013
  5. surplusletterbox

    surplusletterbox Well-Known Member

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    The question is whether Cantonese should be a language rather than a dialect. The Chinese writing system (huge character set but rather difficult to add new character, like the Latin writing system (alphabet but easy to make words from phonetics), is used extensively in a large geograhical area. In Europe, similar area to Far East, has far more languages than Far East. However when these so called langauges are spoken and written they are understood in many countries because of the commonality, notably the Germanic family of the Indo-European languages family. When I look at the many Sino-Tibetan family of languages (also Altaic language group) there is extensive use of the Chinese writing system from Japan to Vietnam because in ancient times people just adopted the Chinese writing system because they did not invent their own (before conversion to phonetic writing system and in the case of Japanese and Korean they invented their own phonetic system). However when many of dialects are spoken it is very difficult to understand, even the words and phrases used are different. This led me to think that had these regional ethnic groups in China had used a phonetic writing system like Korean, Japanese and Latin as in Latin then the phonetic spelling of different dialects would have been very different (as indeed the pronounciation and expressions) like the situation in Europe and India where from early times they had phonectic writing system. In early days Korean did not have its own writing system so they had used Hanzi. Then they invented the Hangul alphabet phonetic system and for a period both were used concurrently in writing, Hangul and Hanja. So today one would notice a very large vocabulary set that sounds like a dialect of Chinese! Back to my question, in the same way I notice that there is a lot of similarity of Cantonese evolution and develolpment rather like what happened to Korean and say Dutch and Danish for Germanic language family. So that is why I ask the question of whether Cantonese should be defined as a language or as a dialect. Anyway I know there is development in progress in HK, at least, to define the Cantonese "dialect" in a dictionary since there is a lot of differences from Mandarin both in speaking and words that has no Chinese writing characters.
     
  6. jahbb

    jahbb New Member

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    I don't know the difference of a dialect and langauge. To me it's the same thing - just talking.
     
  7. hellokittysansan

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    I always assumed Cantonese is a langauge since it is the national langauge of Hong Kong. But I do know that not many people are speaking this instead more people speak Mandarin around the world.
     
  8. bd_1126

    bd_1126 Member

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    cantonese is a dialect. Chinese is a language
     
  9. springblossomz

    springblossomz New Member

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    cantonese is a dialect not a lanaguage
     
  10. Chinese language is just ridiculous when looking at all the dialects yet they read the same in the Traditional or Simplified form.. It's like saying French and German is a dialect of English because that's exactly how different Chinese dialects are when speaking with one another.. like a different language.