Cantonese Pinyin

Standard Cantonese Pinyin

Standard Cantonese Pinyin is a romanization system for Standard Cantonese developed by Yu Bingzhao (余秉昭) in 1971, and subsequently modified by the Education Department (merged into the Education and Manpower Bureau since 2003) and Zhan Bohui (詹伯慧). It was used by Tongyin zihui (同音字彙), Cantonese Pronunciation list of Chinese Characters in Common Use (常用字廣州話讀音表), Dictionary of Standard Cantonese Pronunciation (廣州話正音字典), and List of Chinese Characters in Common Use for Primary education (小學中文科常用字表). 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 [Hong Kong] Education [and Manpower] Bureau”.

Pinyin System

The Standard Cantonese Pinyin system directly corresponds to the S. L. Wong system, an IPA-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 English letter, the same symbol is used directly in the romanization (with the exception of the IPA symbol “a”); and if the IPA symbol is not an English letter, it is romanized using English letters. Thus, /a/→aa, /ɐ/→a, /ɛ/→e, /ɔ/→o, /œ/→oe, /ŋ/→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.

Initials

b
[p]
〔b波〕
p
[pʰ]
〔p坡〕
m
[m]
〔m摸〕
f
[f]
〔f科〕
d
[t]
〔d〕
t
[tʰ]
〔t〕
n
[n]
〔n〕
l
[l]
〔l〕
g
[k]
〔g〕
k
[kʰ]
〔k〕
ng
[ŋ]
〔ŋ〕
h
[h]
〔h〕
dz
[ts]
〔dz〕
ts
[tsʰ]
〔ts〕
s
[s]
〔s〕
 
gw
[kw]
〔gw〕
kw
[kʰw]
〔kw〕
j
[j]
〔j〕
w
[w]
〔w〕

Finals

aa
[aː]
〔a〕
aai
[aːi]
〔ai〕
aau
[aːu]
〔au〕
  aam
[aːm]
〔am〕
aan
[aːn]
〔an〕
aang
[aːŋ]
〔ang〕
aap
[aːp]
〔ap〕
aat
[aːt]
〔at〕
aak
[aːk]
〔ak〕
  ai
[ɐi]
〔ɐi〕
au
[ɐu]
〔ɐu〕
  am
[ɐm]
〔ɐm〕
an
[ɐn]
〔ɐn〕
ang
[ɐŋ]
〔ɐŋ〕
ap
[ɐp]
〔ɐp〕
at
[ɐt]
〔ɐt〕
ak
[ɐk]
〔ɐk〕
e
[ɛː]
〔ɛ〕
ei
[ei]
〔ei〕
eu
[ɛːu]
〔ɛu〕
  em
[ɛːm]
〔ɛm〕
  eng
[ɛːŋ]
〔ɛŋ〕
ep
[ɛːp]
〔ɛp〕
  ek
[ɛːk]
〔ɛk〕
i
[iː]
〔i〕
  iu
[iːu]
〔iu〕
  im
[iːm]
〔im〕
in
[iːn]
〔in〕
ing
[ɪŋ]
〔iŋ〕
ip
[iːp]
〔ip〕
it
[iːt]
〔it〕
ik
[ɪk]
〔ik〕
o
[ɔː]
〔ɔ〕
oi
[ɔːi]
〔ɔi〕
ou
[ou]
〔ou〕
    on
[ɔːn]
〔ɔn〕
ong
[ɔːŋ]
〔ɔŋ〕
  ot
[ɔːt]
〔ɔt〕
ok
[ɔːk]
〔ɔk〕
u
[uː]
〔u〕
ui
[uːi]
〔ui〕
      un
[uːn]
〔un〕
ung
[ʊŋ]
〔ʊŋ〕
  ut
[uːt]
〔ut〕
uk
[ʊk]
〔ʊk〕
oe
[œː]
〔œ〕
    oey
[ɵy]
〔œy〕
  oen
[ɵn]
〔œn〕
oeng
[œːŋ]
〔œŋ〕
  oet
[ɵt]
〔œt〕
oek
[œːk]
〔œk〕
y
[yː]
〔y〕
        yn
[yːn]
〔yn〕
    yt
[yːt]
〔yt〕
 
        m
[m̩]
〔m̩〕
  ng
[ŋ̩]
〔ŋ̩〕
     

  • The finals m and ng can only be used as standalone nasal syllables.

Tones

Standard Cantonese has nine tones in six distinct tone contours.
Tone name Yīn Píng
(陰平)
Yīn Shàng
(陰上)
Yīn Qù
(陰去)
Yáng Píng
(陽平)
Yáng Shàng
(陽上)
Yáng Qù
(陽去)
Yīn Rù
(陰入)
Zhōng Rù
(中入)
Yáng Rù
(陽入)
Tone name in English high level or high falling mid rising mid level low falling low rising low level entering high level entering mid level entering low level
Contour 55 / 53 35 33 21 / 11 13 22 5 3 2
Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (1) 8 (3) 9 (6)
Character Example
Example fan1 fan2 fan3 fan4 fan5 fan6 fat7 (fat1) faat8 (faat3) fat9 (fat6)

Comparison with Yale Romanization

Standard Cantonese Pinyin and the Yale romanization system represent Cantonese pronunciations with the same letters in:

  • The initials: b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, g, k, ng, h, s, gw, kw, w.
  • The vowel: aa (except when using alone), a, e, i, o, u.
  • The nasal consonant: m, ng.
  • The coda: i (except of being the coda [y] in Yale), u, m, n, ng, p, t, k.

But they have difference with the following exceptions:

  • The vowels oe represent [ɵ] and [œː] in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while the eu represents both vowels in Yale.
  • The vowel y represent [y] in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while both yu (use in nucleus) and i (use in coda) is used in Yale.
  • The initial j represents [j] in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while y is used instead in Yale.
  • The initial dz represents [ts] in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while j is used instead in Yale.
  • The initial ts represents [tsʰ] 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 finals can be written in Standard Cantonese Pinyin is not contained in Yale romanization schemes, such as: eu [ɛːu], em [ɛːm], and ep [ɛːp]. These three finals are used in colloquial Cantonese words, such as deu6 (掉), lem2 (舐), and gep9 (夾).
  • To represent tones, only tone numbers are used in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while Yale originally uses tone marks together with the letter h (though tone numbers can be used in Yale as well).

Comparison with Jyutping

Standard Cantonese Pinyin and Jyutping represent Cantonese pronunciations with the same letters in:

  • The initials: 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 coda: i (except of being the coda [y] in Jyutping), u, m, n, ng, p, t, k.

But they have difference with the following exceptions:

  • The vowels oe represent [ɵ] and [œː] in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while the eo and oe represent [ɵ] and [œː] respectively in Jyutping.
  • The vowel y represent [y] in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while both yu (use in nucleus) and i (use in coda) is used in Jyutping.
  • The initial dz represents [ts] in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while z is used instead in Jyutping.
  • The initial ts represents [tsʰ] in Standard Cantonese Pinyin while c is used instead in Jyutping.
  • To represent tones, 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.

Examples

Traditional Simplified Romanization
廣州話 广州话 gwong2 dzau1 waa2
粵語 粤语 jyt9 jy5
你好 你好 nei5 hou2

Try to write an old Chinese poem:

春曉  孟浩然 Tsoen1 Hiu2  Maang6 Hou6jin4
春眠不覺曉, Tsoen1 min4 bat7 gok8 hiu2,
處處聞啼鳥。 Tsy3 tsy3 man4 tai4 niu5.
夜來風雨聲, Je6 loi4 fung1 jy5 sing1,
花落知多少? faa1 lok9 dzi1 do1 siu2?

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