The English used in this article or section may not be easy for everybody to understand. (May 2016)
Cantonese is an East Asian language which comes from Canton, southern China. Often, people use the word 'Cantonese' to refer to the Guangzhou dialect, Hong Kong dialect, Xiguan dialect, Wuzhou dialect and Tanka dialect of Yue. However, linguists prefer to keep the name 'Cantonese' for the Yue dialect of Guangzhou (Canton) and Hong Kong. Using this classification, Cantonese is the prestige dialect of Yue.
|Native to||China, Vietnam, Malaysia|
|Region||Pearl River Delta (Central Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macau); Eastern-Southern Guangxi|
|73.4 million (2020)|
Official language in
|Hong Kong and Macau (de facto, though officially referred to as "Chinese"; Cantonese and occasionally Mandarin are used in government). Recognised regional language in Suriname.|
Cantonese is spoken by people in Southern China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as places with many overseas Chinese who came from Cantonese-speaking parts of China, such as Melbourne. It is also the most common language of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and North America. It is said that over 100,000,000 people speak Cantonese. It is a tonal language with 6 kinds of tones. While Cantonese is only the third most spoken dialect of Chinese, only behind Mandarin and Wu, its official status in Hong Kong and Macau make it widely known among other Chinese dialects.
Even though Cantonese is called a dialect of Chinese, Cantonese is so different from Mandarin, the most spoken dialect of Chinese, that they are mutually unintelligible, meaning that a speaker of one language cannot understand the other language without learning it beforehand. It is said that Cantonese is more closely related to Classical Chinese or the Traditional Chinese than Mandarin.
Cantonese is from the Sino-Tibetan family of languages.
Hong Kong and Macau change
In Hong Kong, the official languages are English and Chinese, according to the Basic Law of Hong Kong. The vagueness of listing Chinese as the official language allows for the wide use of Cantonese, as it is called a dialect of Chinese. In Hong Kong, many people speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin, and some may even get offended if you speak Mandarin. Most schools in Hong Kong teach in Cantonese, rather than the language that they speak in Mainland China.
In Macau, the majority speak Cantonese and it is also the official language with the other being Portuguese. But here the people speak lots of other languages as it is popular with tourists because of its casinos.