Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Discussions on the Cantonese language.

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by KHP » Sat Apr 06, 2002 10:59 pm

so....most people here say Cantonese came from ancient Chinese language. What about the tonal differences? I believe Mandarin, as well as Korean and Japanese have about 4 or 5 tones? (feel free to correct me) While cantonese has 9 tones? What about most of the other "Chinese" dialects(Shanghai, chiu chow, etc.)? Are they more similar to Mandarin or Cantonese?

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by KHP » Sat Apr 06, 2002 11:03 pm

regarding Japanese names.........
Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese........all have single syllable names......but Japanese have surnames like Yamada, Tokugawa, Yamaguchi. How did this come about?

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by joe » Sun Apr 07, 2002 1:25 am

I'm quite sure that both Japanese and Korean are non-tonal languages. The fact that Cantonese is closest(or the closest) to Ancient/Classical Chinese is because Cantonese's conversational vocabulary resembles vocabulary that exists in Classical Chinese whereas they no longer exist in other dialects. Here's some example:

eat - 吃(Mandarin) 食(Cantonese)
drink - 喝(Mandarin) 飲(Cantonese)
run - 跑(Mandarin) 走(Cantonese)
wings - 翅膀 (Mandarin) 翼(Cantonese)

etc, etc

Shanghainese probably resembles Mandarin more, because of its proximity to Beijing. I could be wrong. Chaozhou is related to Minnan(Fukienese, Taiwanese) which has roughly about 6 tones(depending on classficiation scheme) like Cantonese

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by joe » Sun Apr 07, 2002 1:42 am

regarding Japanese names...

Korean and Vietnamese names like Chinese names are all one syllable because both Koreans and Vietnamese share the same last names as Chinese. Japanese have polysyllabic names because their language is polysyllabic and they did not borrow last names from Chinese. The commoners of Japan did not have last names until about 1870 when the Meiji regime ordered that commoners be allowed to take last names. All the commoners took names of the places that they came from which explains why most Japanese names describe a geographical location. Honda - 本田 Ben tian (Mandarin) original field (English)
Toyota - 豐田 Feng tian (Mandarin) abundant field (English)
Takebayashi - 武林 Wu lin (Mandarin) Martial Forest (English)
Other Japanese last names, which do not have a geographical reference are names of the nobles, bushi, or samurai that had last names before 1870 like kujo, takashi, genji, oda, etc.

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by KHP » Sun Apr 07, 2002 6:37 pm

joe....thanks for clearing up the Japanese part.

back to Cantonese........

Just to be are saying Cantonese is the closest dialect to Ancient Chinese?

I assumed that Korean and Japanese were tonal since.....because my ears tell me that they are very similar. That might just be me though.

Also, I heard that Koreans are descendents of an ancient Chinese I assumed that their language is similar. Most people will say that Japanese adn Korean is very similar to one another, my Korean GF even admits that. WIth those two connections, I assumed Korean adn Japanese were tonal as well, since their voices definitely don't have the range of Cantonese or other SEA languages.

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by joe » Sun Apr 07, 2002 11:41 pm

I am not positive that Cantonese is the closest dialect to Classical Chinese.
I am positive that Cantonese is a lot closer than Mandarin is.

About Korean and Japanese. These languages are somewhat related but both of them are non-tonal. They place emphasis(or lack of) on syllables. To be a tonal language is to say that a pronounced sound changes meaning if it's tone is changed.

A word in Japanese, English, or any other non-tonal language would mean the same thing no matter any tone it is pronounced.

The word "See" no matter what tone it is pronounced in, will always mean to visually interpret something(unless you write it as Sea).

In Cantonese, the word "si" can mean have these meanings in these tones:

si1 poem
si2 history
si3 try
si4 time
si5 city
si6 event

Alternatively, in Mandarin

si1 silk
si2 ?(not sure)
si3 death
si4 four

among other meanings.

Hope this can be of help.

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by joe » Mon Apr 08, 2002 2:18 am

in addition to the last post:

Korean and Japanese are languages that are linguistically unrelated to Chinese. Both languages are polysyllabic, meaning its vocabulary consists of words which are more than one syllable.

Chinese, like Vietnamese, Thai, etc. is a monosyllabic language. Each syllable represents a meaning (unless its a foreign word, or borrowed word)

Ex: Yama is Japanese for mountain, Ya and Ma are single syllables that don't mean anything. They only mean something when pronounced Ya-Ma

Shan or Saan is mountain in Mandarin/Cantonese, respectively. One syllable is enough to produce a meaning. How about words like Laohu(Tiger) or Fenghuang (Phoenix)? These are word groups, Lao in Laohu has a meaning of "Old" by itself, Huang in Fenghuang means Female Phoenix. Each syllable can generally stand alone in meaning.

As for Koreans being a descendent of an ancient Chinese tribe. This is totally up for discussion because of nationality issues. Koreans probably lived, at one time, in Northern China before they migrated to the Korean peninsula. One could then argue that Thai, Laos, and Vietnamese are descendants of ancient Chinese tribes since they did originally live in Southern China during ancient times. Is this valid? Make your own assumptions.

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by KHP » Mon Apr 08, 2002 4:55 pm

Thanks for the explanations joe, you are very knowledgable. If you dont mind me picking your brain some more......I know my Viet history well, but you said Thai and Laos are possibly descendents of Chinese tribes, or at least came from Southern China, as well. Thai and Laos have long surnames(Yothsackda, Philavong, etc.), unlike Viet who have their own version of Chinese names. Any idea where that comes from?

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by joe » Tue Apr 09, 2002 1:24 am

I'm somewhat familiar with the Southeast Asian history so I'll try to answer your question.

To see why Thai's have such last names, you can take a look at this site:
Interestingly, the long last names are directly influenced by Chinese since the great Thai King Chulalongkorn(he declared to the European colonial powers that Thailand is an independent kingdom) banned all foreign names, especially ethnic Chinese names in his country.

King Vajiravudh, the successor to King Chulalongkorn, reigned and introduced many aspects of modern Thai culture. One of these is the adoption of surnames in 1909 in part so that they could crush the Chinese nationalism and identity in Thailand by forcing everybody to have a Thai surname.

I am not sure about Laos surnames but I assume that they adopted surnames only in modern times, like Thai, Japanese, others.
You must understand that the concept of surnames or family names originated or began very early in China. Most other nations only referred to people by their given name. Look at much of the more ancient Europeans, they were all referred to by given name. None of the characters in the Bible, new or old had any surnames. Africans certainly had no surnames, Central Asians nomads, Mongolians, Huns were always referred to by only a given name. Only those that came into direct contact with China adopted the practice of surnames. China never politically controlled the areas now called Laos and Thailand so they never adopted the practice of having surnames. Korea and Vietnam however have been part of the Chinese empire very early on, before the birth of Christ. The adoption of Chinese surnames by all subjects of the empire would be urged by the government. Many Chinese from the more remote areas adopted surnames at the same time or maybe even after the Koreans and Vietnamese which can explain why there are some "newer" Chinese surnames that don't exist in Vietnam or Korea.

One might argue, how about the Tibetans, Uighurs, Mongolians, Manchus that don't have Chinese surnames? They were directly controlled politically by Chinese. The answer is: Although many of these groups have been a part of China they were not assimilated during Qin Dynasty or Han Dynasty. They've been integrated into the Empire more recently. During the chaotic period between 3kingdoms and Tang Dynasty (~190ad - 640ad) There were several Hunnic/nomadic dynasties/kingdoms in China that reigned. They called their dynasties Later Han to claim descendance from the Han emperors. They adopted the surnames of Liu and many subjects also adopted Liu or other Chinese surnames. During the collapse of the Sung, the Later Xia or Western Xia look the last name of Li. the surname bestowed upon them by the Tang emperors.(Tang emperors were named Li) After so many centuries, these originally Turkic/Hunnic/whatever people are indistinguishable from Chinese so many Uighurs, Mongolians, minorities may have adopted Chinese names from a long time ago but they differ slightly from the modern Chinese minorities...

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by AOJMrLightninG » Wed Apr 10, 2002 2:12 am

Well, maybe most of you guys think that Mandarin is the closest to the Ancient Chinese. Surprisingly, Cantonese is closer. Mandarin has significantly tweaked the pronounciation, while Cantonese does less.

I know a bit Korean. Korean is quite close to the Ancient Chinese, thought they don't have "f" sound. They use "p" instead of "f". For example, the word, "Fei"-Fly, they say "pi".
Sum Won

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Tue Apr 16, 2002 2:24 am

First of all, I'd like to thank all of you for participating in this forum.

Now, for the arguements...

Let me reiterate: "I am not arguing that Cantonese came from Japanese. I'm merely stating that there might be a possibility of kinship between Japanese and Cantonese."

If the "Hai-Hai" arguement doesn't work, then how about the Cantonese "wa" (written commonly as "to say", in many HK films) and "wa/ga" (usually translated as a "verbal colon"). If we follow the Japanese "wa", and apply it to the Cantonese "Ngaam wa" ("Just now") -- often used as a replacement for "ngaam ngaam") and "Jeng wa" ("Just now"), it would make perfect sense, that Japanese and Cantonese have a connection. Or how about the question "Me wa?"? People usually use it towards asking someone for clarification for what was said previously, however, "wa" was also used in questions in general for a while. The latter use fell out of way, when the clarification use, was overridden with the joke "Gwong Dung wa ah!".

Correct, Cantonese is closest to the Ancient Chinese language. However, you forget that there are still some Cantonese colloquial words/phrases that are still used today.

Now, on the case of Chinese migration towards the Cantonese regions: Yeah, I admit it happened. But does the settling and assimilation justify the killing of a culture? According to the UN, it doesn't. Sure, the white colonists did the same thing to the Native-Americans, but it was still wrong.
Sure, the Cantonese now have Chinese blood in them. However, does that necessarily mean we should stick with the Chinese culture blindly, and not do our part to revive, or at least examine the indigenous Cantonese culture?

Now on issues of "Cantonese Independance". Now, if we look at the Koreans, sure they have Chinese blood, but they also have their own independance. Look at Vietnam, they were taken over by the Chinese for several thousands of years, and they have their own independance! OK, we have Chinese blood, and indigenous blood mixed alongside, as do the Koreans and Vietnamese. So why is it they get their independance and we don't?
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Alex » Tue Apr 16, 2002 6:23 am

This is an interesting topic & definately the longest one on the message board. I know Vietnamese history and that the Vietnames people are actually a branch of MonKhmer people that decided to live somewhere that is now in Southern China. I think that they were forced south by the Chinese at some point in history. History between China & Vietnam is basically a lot like this: Vietnam forms its kingdom, China conquers it for a thousand years or so, Vietnam fights out the Chinese and is independant for a bit, China conquers it again and the cycle continues until France decides to have a turn ruling the country. Because Vietnam had set up its own kingdom and culture it had itself a national identity which still existed when Vietnam politically didn't. From what I've read here it seems the original Cantonese people were an assortment of little tribes inhabiting land China wanted and after a few genrations of Chinese rule they probably began to feel Chinese while the Chinese people moving to live there definately would have felt Chinese. Vietnamese has received much Chinese influence during occupation -- Vietnamese people used Chinese writing; the major religions of Vietnam were gained through China; just as English borrows words from Latin & Greek, Vietnamese seems to have at some point in time borrowed the entire Chinese language, some words more than once; a lot of culture & festivals in Vietnam are form China -- but the Vietnamese people stuck to some of the Vietnamese things. That is why I think Vietnamese people got their own country in the end & the Cantonese didn't. All I know about Korea is that its people are originally the same as the Japanese and that it probably also had its own natioanl identity despite Chinese assimilation.

PS I'm new to this message board and don't know if I should introduce myself here.
Lisa C

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Lisa C » Tue Apr 16, 2002 3:54 pm

Japanese language structure is actually similar to Turkish language structure. While Japanese language has many borrowed words from Chinese, this wouldn't be unusual with influence China had on the surrounding countries. Many of the kanji used by Japan relate to the older usages that have fallen out "popularity" in China due to forced Mandarin standardization. Since Cantonese still maintains some of the older usages it would make sense that there is some similarity.

Japan borrowed numbers, food, religion etc. from China at one time or another. I do see what you mean by words in Cantonese and Japanese having similarities but I think it's more the influence of trade etc. on Japan. Although most of them wouldn't admit getting any cultural influence from China.

ex. shoyu - soy sauce
Lisa C

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Lisa C » Tue Apr 16, 2002 3:58 pm

Well, somehow I posted by mistake. (con't) roku - six, sennian - new year, etc.

I noticed in Vietnamese that many of the food items sound very similar to Cantonese as well. I think if Japanese were really related to Chinese they would have had last names much earlier than the 19th century.
Sum Won

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Wed Apr 17, 2002 11:01 pm

Correct, there was trade conducted between Japan and Ancient China. However, that still doesn't rule out the possibility that Cantonese and Japanese were related.

Now, on the issue of whether or not the Chinese were related to the Japanese, and the surname issue: There were Japanese surnames, in certain castes of society. The only people who didn't have any surnames, were most of the common people. If any of you remember the pattern of how evrey assimilating country takes over other countries, they [the conquerers] always cast themselves in high positions, and put the conquered people in low positions. So, when the Chinese got to Japan, they brought over last names, and through time, they've changed to something completely than before.
If this statement doesn't follow, then let's try the following: What reason would the farmers need last names for? They just farm... Unlike the people in the warrior class, or the politicians, they don't need to make themselves known. First names alone would do in a village, which for the most part, was reclusive (as most farmlands were, until their country's industrialization period came).

Now, as to the reason why VietNamese food (if you mean, dishes, or ingredients used in preparing them) sounds similar to Chinese, is possibly from the fact that the VietNamese wanted to learn more about Chinese culture, and went to or even through the Cantonese areas, so there was an exchange in either language, or dishes of food. Or, it was because of the mass number of Cantonese people alongside with many other southern Chinese moving to VietNam for the following reasons:
1. Ventured in VietNam to try to make a living or gain some money (early 20th century, when almost everyone [as in the peasants] was poor)
2. Moved to VietNam to avoid Japanese atrocities (The Japanese treated VietNam fairly well, compared to the people in China. Aside from the standard "Pre-Geneva" standards of beating people, no rape cases are heard. Plus, the French Viche government just handed it over to Japan, so there was no need for hostile forces.)
3. Moved to VietNam to avoid Communism (usually for poor people who couldn't afford to move to Macau or Hong Kong, but were rich enough to flee all the way to what was known as "Southern VietNam")