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#1 zomis93

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 07:09 AM

Hi everybody. I am an ABC trying to find out more about the native tongue of my parents. They speak to me in Cantonese, but a few weeks ago I found out that both sides of my family originally spoke a dialect of Hakka Chinese which they call "Ngai". The only thing I know is that it is spoken in by the Chinese rural farm workers in Vietnam. My parents are visiting a relative for three weeks, so I cant get much info from them at the moment. My questions are:

Is it mutually intelligibility with Meixian Hakka?
Does the dialect have any distinguishable features?
Do the tones differ from Meixian Hakka?
Why is it called Ngai and what is the Chinese character for it?

I originally posted this in another forum but I have received zero responses. Can anyone tell me anything on this forum? :greetblink:

#2 qrasy

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 05:01 PM

I am guessing that this dialect is brought by recent immigrants coming over the land from neighboring Guangxi?
There are Hakka dialects in Guangxi, I'm not sure about the intelligibility but the diversity within Hakka is relatively low compared to many Chinese branches. One can expect partial intelligibility as the migration is quite recent.

Some Guangxi dialects have acquired rather distinguishing features (not sure if it's the exception instead of the rule), but I don't find much info about the dialects of Ngai people or Hakka dialects in Guangxi.

I've heard that this name come from the self-term "Ngai" means "I/me", so possibly the name in Vietnam arose from mis-communication.
The tones are possibly different from Meixian Hakka as it's heard as Ngái instead of Ngŕi by Vietnamese.
Some Hakka places in China also call their language like "Ngai language" (should mean something like "my/our language"). (e.g. "艾話" in 四邑 region, showing low tone)

The character (for "I/me") is "我". But because of sound differences from literary standard ("literary reading" more like ngo), the character 𠊎[亻厓] is preferred for Hakka. [the special character "𠊎" is messed up by the forum's encoding in "quick reply" mode, showing as "��"]

Somehow the Vietnamese government classified "Ngái" differently from "Hoa".

Edited by qrasy, 24 April 2010 - 05:06 PM.

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#3 bloodmerchant

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Posted 24 April 2010 - 06:58 PM

Somehow the Vietnamese government classified "Ngái" differently from "Hoa".

The Ngái are actually Cantonese-speaking Tanka people (who are normally classified as Han Chinese in China)

艾族(越南文:Ngái)是越南的54個民族之一。人口4,841人(1999年統計)。艾族使用粵語和越南語,信奉大乘佛教。在越南,艾族被視為跟華族(越南漢族)不同的民族,蜑民也被歸入艾族的一支。


And Hakka itself is called Ngai-va, 𠊎([亻厓])話, it means 'our language'. It's also called 土廣東話.

Edited by bloodmerchant, 24 April 2010 - 08:23 PM.

吳王夫差將伐齊,子胥曰:“不可。夫齊之與吳也,習俗不同,言語不通,我得其地不能處,得其民不得使。夫吳之與越也,接土鄰境,壤交通屬,習俗同,言語通,我得其地能處之,得其民能使之。”
─伍子胥 《知化》,《呂氏春秋》

#4 zomis93

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 02:09 AM

Guangxi eh? My grandparents came from Guangdong :g:.

Literary reading? Interesting, so there are multiply ways to read Chinese characters? Is there a particular reason why (亻厓) is used with the human radical hanging on the left like that? Human radical + cliff= "I" might throw some people off. Is this the standard way of representing "I" in Hakka?

Edited by zomis93, 25 April 2010 - 02:43 AM.


#5 qrasy

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 06:52 AM

The Ngái are actually Cantonese-speaking Tanka people (who are normally classified as Han Chinese in China)

Aren't Tanka people boat peoples instead of farmers?
And how would you explain the "Ngái" name?

And Hakka itself is called Ngai-va, ��([亻厓])話, it means 'our language'. It's also called 土廣東話.

Depends on location.
土廣東話 is only used in places far from Guangdong, such as Sichuan.
Many people in Eastern Guangxi know of the "usual 白話" of Guangdong province, which is Cantonese not Hakka.

Guangxi eh? My grandparents came from Guangdong :g:.

I mean, I was guessing you were talking about the "Ngái", which I guessed migrated by land through Guangxi.
Of course, Hakka homelands are still Northeast Guangdong.
And it doesn't exclude direct migration from Northeast Guangdong. It's just that it's uncommon to see overseas Chinese, be it Hakka, to be farmers in the overseas, for example Indonesia.

Literary reading? Interesting, so there are multiply ways to read Chinese characters?

It's true for some characters in some dialects. Even the standard Chinese (Putonghua) have several of such kind of words.

Is there a particular reason why (亻厓) is used with the human radical hanging on the left like that? Human radical + cliff= "I" might throw some people off. Is this the standard way of representing "I" in Hakka?

People made this character simply because the character 涯 sounds "Ngai" (except with different tone).
I'm not sure if it's standard, but 我 is less preferred (by some) because 我 tend to be read as "ngo".

Edited by qrasy, 25 April 2010 - 06:55 AM.

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#6 xng

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 11:22 AM

Guangxi eh? My grandparents came from Guangdong :g:.



Almost all Hakka people come from east Guangdong and west Fujian province. So you are right that your grandparents come from Guangdong instead of Guangxi.

It is normal for your parents to speak cantonese instead of hakka as cantonese is more practical and prestigious in North America and Vietnam but it doesn't reflect your true mother tongue.

When your parents visit your relatives in Vietnam, try to take a photo shot of your ancestors tombstones that should reveal the original village in China. From there, you will know your true ancestry and dialect.

Edited by xng, 25 April 2010 - 11:25 AM.


#7 zomis93

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 07:34 PM

People made this character simply because the character 涯 sounds "Ngai" (except with different tone).
I'm not sure if it's standard, but 我 is less preferred (by some) because 我 tend to be read as "ngo".


Are there more examples of this for other hakka words?

Quote
Literary reading? Interesting, so there are multiply ways to read Chinese characters?
It's true for some characters in some dialects. Even the standard Chinese (Putonghua) have several of such kind of words.

Could (文) be another example of this? I asked my mom a while ago how to pronounce my Chinese name (巫世文)in her native Ngai Hakka dialect and she said it was pronounced Mu Se Min( I dont remember the tones). It matches perfectly with online Hakka dictionary entries except the last syllable. Could 'Min' be a deviation from the standard pronunciation 'vun/wun' or am I mistaken in my memory? Its not in the dictionary entry.

Its the same thing with my moms given name.(娟)is pronounced "gang" according to her, but dictionary entries say its pronounced (kien/kian/ken) in Ngai.

Edited by zomis93, 25 April 2010 - 07:59 PM.


#8 qrasy

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 09:58 PM

Almost all Hakka people come from east Guangdong and west Fujian province. So you are right that your grandparents come from Guangdong instead of Guangxi.

That would be true for Hakkas from most overseas country, where they mostly travel by ship.
However, one can really arrive in Vietnam from Guangxi by "passing through the land".

And those Guangxi Hakka (also West-Guangdong Hakka) also trace ancestry from Northeast Guangdong.

Are there more examples of this for other hakka words?

There should be a lot of "irregular colloquial readings", though they could be so irregular that most people no longer recognize that it's the same root with the literary character. [ Negative word "m" (earlier something like "mu") is usually unrecognized - I think it's the same root as literary vu. (毋 or 無) ]
In the case of Ngai = 我, it's recognized but not preferred. (Cantonese have examples like 嚟 in place of 來).
I don't know Hakka much so I can't give examples of this - though I'm sure that there are many of such.
"Regular colloquial reading" is different - usually the same character as the literary form is preferred - like in 清 ts'in or ts'iang.

Could (文) be another example of this? I asked my mom a while ago how to pronounce my Chinese name (巫世文)in her native Ngai Hakka dialect and she said it was pronounced Mu Se Min( I dont remember the tones). It matches perfectly with online Hakka dictionary entries except the last syllable. Could 'Min' be a deviation from the standard pronunciation 'vun/wun' or am I mistaken in my memory?

"Min" is more like a heavy influence from Cantonese - made from "back formation" from Cantonese "Man" (short a), which is homophonous with 民.
(FYI, this "back-formation" means 'follow the most common correspondences between the two' - in this case "Cantonese an - Hakka in" is quite common so we follow it in order to "guess" how it sounds in Hakka; Yes, I say it's educated guessing instead of proper Hakka learning)

"Standard" Northeastern Hakka has Vun as literary; I don't see a colloquial reading in the dictionary I could find, but colloquial reading should be "蚊 in a different tone" - i.e. Mun not Min.
(V/W are confused in Hakka anyway)

The first time I saw "艾話" is regarding dialects in Siyi region (a bit west of Guangzhou) - that means it's likely to have strong influences from Cantonese (or other Cantonese-like languages).
Of course, I could be wrong as I don't know if Meixian also have the term "Ngai-va".

Its the same thing with my moms given name.(娟)is pronounced "gang" according to her, but dictionary entries say its pronounced (kien/kian/ken) in Ngai.

Is it called "Ngai dictionary"?
I never encounter 娟=gang anywhere. 娟 is more like Gün in Cantonese, so it's possibly a heavy influence of Kaiping-like dialect (more like gin or gen) instead of Cantonese. I may have to go back to search for Hakka-Cantonese correspondences again.
If the hypothesis was correct - e.g. if 清 is ts'ang in Siyi Hakka and ts'in (or ts'en) in Kaiping, then "educated guessing" suggests that Kaiping gin (or gen) would be Siyi Hakka gang.
[ nb. All the above "Chinese g" is pronounced more like Vietnamese c/k/q. ]

Edited by qrasy, 25 April 2010 - 10:26 PM.

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#9 zomis93

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 01:53 AM

Fascinating information guys. Thanks.

Another question: When my mother speaks Ngai. There is this particular sound that I have not heard in Mandarin or Cantonese. Its a slurred sound that is a cross between an English "Th" and "L". Does anyone know what it is called? I don't think I have heard it in other Hakka dialects, although, I have heard very little Hakka so I could be wrong <_< .

Another interesting thing is that my parents Cantonese is a bit different from the one spoken in HK. I dont regulary listen to HK Cantonese so I may be missing some examples.

my parents cantonese vs HK cantonese
-AI=-EI Example 世= Saai- sei
-ei=-i 你= nei - ni
-dei=di 你哋- neidei - nidi

The most interesting thing is for 'you' they say 'Gi'[?] and not 'keoi'. [佢]My mom said she picked up Cantonese from talking to other fellow Chinese immigrants. Both sides of my family came to America around the 1980s. When A lot of Hoa came to America due to the Vietnam war. Is it possible they are speaking the Cantonese spoken in Saigon's Cholon district? Any idea what dialect of Cantonese this is?

Edited by zomis93, 27 April 2010 - 02:00 AM.


#10 qrasy

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 04:38 AM

Another question: When my mother speaks Ngai. There is this particular sound that I have not heard in Mandarin or Cantonese. Its a slurred sound that is a cross between an English "Th" and "L". Does anyone know what it is called? I don't think I have heard it in other Hakka dialects, although, I have heard very little Hakka so I could be wrong <_< .

It's a rare sound amongst Hakka (never heard of it until today). But it's very common in Yue dialects in West Guangdong and East Guangxi.
Kaiping and Taishan of Siyi region are quite well-known for this "thl"-like sound. It's called voiceless alveolar lateral fricative, with IPA symbol of [ɬ] ("l with belt", not to confuse with "l with middle tilde" ɫ which is another IPA consonant).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C9%AC

Note, though, it could be simply lisping instead of really a sound pertaining to Hakka - the way to tell if it's genuinely part of the dialect (and not personal mispronunciation) is to see if "normal s" exists separately from this "thl" - and also see whether it influences her pronunciation of English and other languages.

my parents cantonese vs HK cantonese
-AI=-EI Example 世= Saai- sei

HK Cantonese is sai (short), close to Vietnamese xay.
Vietnamese does not have ei-ay difference, though. But HK Cantonese does have.
Some Siyi region really change short ai (~Viet ay) into long ai (~Viet ai), though.

One way that can filter Kaiping and Taishan out of other Yue-branch Chinese, is to test for the word for "fish" and "eat", and also to see what have t (Pinyin d) and th (Pinyin t).

-ei=-i 你= nei - ni
-dei=di 你哋- neidei - nidi

Some regions in Siyi and Zhongshan do have /i/ in place of standard Cantonese /ei/. It's also true in some regions of Guangxi.
It's also found as close as Shunde, just around 40km South of Guangzhou.

The most interesting thing is for 'you' they say 'Gi'[?] and not 'keoi'. [佢]My mom said she picked up Cantonese from talking to other fellow Chinese immigrants. Both sides of my family came to America around the 1980s. When A lot of Hoa came to America due to the Vietnam war. Is it possible they are speaking the Cantonese spoken in Saigon's Cholon district?

To my knowledge, "Gi" (similar to Vietnamese Kỳ) is Hakka, not Cantonese.
To have "g" in this word is highly irregular for Cantonese. There only Yue dialects that I know have "G" for this word (unaspirated k not k') is near the Guangxi boundary and they are apparently classified as Yue "only for linguistic purposes". But then they have a lot more "G for K" words.

Any idea what dialect of Cantonese this is?

Does the previous quote suggest that it's possibly not learned from the type of Cantonese spoken near to their village in China?
If it were - we could just wait for your parents to return and tell you what the place is called - then I could see the map and we would see which branch of Yue it is classified into; my personal guess would be it's an area in Siyi.

A lot of Cantonese speakers in America are also Siyi-accented.

Edited by qrasy, 27 April 2010 - 05:00 AM.

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One thing is for certain: the more profoundly baffled you have been in your life, the more open your mind becomes to new ideas. - Neil deGrasse Tyson

#11 zomis93

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 05:51 AM

It's a rare sound amongst Hakka (never heard of it until today). But it's very common in Yue dialects in West Guangdong and East Guangxi.
Kaiping and Taishan of Siyi region are quite well-known for this "thl"-like sound. It's called voiceless alveolar lateral fricative, with IPA symbol of [ɬ] ("l with belt", not to confuse with "l with middle tilde" ɫ which is another IPA consonant).


Rare eh? So its not in standard meixian hakka? What sound does it correspond to in hakka dialects that dont have this sound? What sound does it correspond to in Cantonese and Mandarin?

Quote
The most interesting thing is for 'you' they say 'Gi'[?] and not 'keoi'. [佢]My mom said she picked up Cantonese from talking to other fellow Chinese immigrants. Both sides of my family came to America around the 1980s. When A lot of Hoa came to America due to the Vietnam war. Is it possible they are speaking the Cantonese spoken in Saigon's Cholon district?
To my knowledge, "Gi" (similar to Vietnamese Kỳ) is Hakka, not Cantonese.
To have "g" in this word is highly irregular for Cantonese. There only Yue dialects that I know have "G" for this word (unaspirated k not k') is near the Guangxi boundary and they are apparently classified as Yue "only for linguistic purposes". But then they have a lot more "G for K" words.



Hmm. Perhaps this is just influence from Ngai. Also, What do mean by they are classified as Yue only for "linguistic purposes"? So are there other reasons to classify a dialect besides similarities in syntax and grammar? Just out of curiosity, what are other examples of these "G for K" words.

A lot of Cantonese speakers in America are also Siyi-accented.
What are other characteristics of the siyi accent?

Does the previous quote suggest that it's possibly not learned from the type of Cantonese spoken near to their village in China?
If it were - we could just wait for your parents to return and tell you what the place is called - then I could see the map and we would see which branch of Yue it is classified into; my personal guess would be it's an area in Siyi.


The unfortunate thing is that nether of my parents know where their respective ancestral village is <_< . They were born and raised in vietnam. My dad came from Haiphong in north Vietnam, my mom was raised in some rural village a few hours away from Saigon in south Vietnam. They just vaguely know that my grandparents came from Guongdong. Perhaps they just picked up the siyi accent from interacting with the Chinese community over here.

I suppose I can try to tract down my families generation poem, but only knowing the generation names of my family up to my grandfather (偉- 勝- 世) is not very helpful as generations poams can be quite large. This and the fact that my surname is uncommon 巫 might make searching for my generation name impossible by myself. You wouldn't happen to know where I can get the generation poam for my surname 巫 would you?

The generation name for my moms side might be equally as difficult. I can probable find one online since it is a very common surname but that wont help much because well... it is a common surname. I am sure many rural chinese villages out there have families with the surname 黃. Is it by any chance common in siyi?

Edited by zomis93, 30 April 2010 - 05:54 AM.


#12 qrasy

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 10:43 AM

Rare eh? So its not in standard meixian hakka? What sound does it correspond to in hakka dialects that dont have this sound? What sound does it correspond to in Cantonese and Mandarin?

In Taishan/Kaiping this sound corresponds to [s] in Mandarin, Cantonese and Standard Hakka.
Sometimes (predictably based on the rhymes) x [ɕ] in Mandarin (which sounds between s and sh).
In fact in most form of Chinese it's rendered as s/x.

I guess that the sound is not "personal lisping", otherwise... you should also notice this sound in her accent of English or Vietnamese?

Hmm. Perhaps this is just influence from Ngai. Also, What do mean by they are classified as Yue only for "linguistic purposes"? So are there other reasons to classify a dialect besides similarities in syntax and grammar? Just out of curiosity, what are other examples of these "G for K" words.

"Classified for linguistic purposes" means that while they do have similarities, but they are mostly unintelligible (i.e. speaker of dialect A most of the time cannot understand dialect B and vice versa, unless there's very specific language training). I am using that phrase as ethnologue.org do not list the divergent Yue dialects as separate languages, whereas Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and Galician are listed separately.

As a rule, every K' in tone 4 or 5 of Cantonese are not pronounced K' in those dialects... that also means almost all (except a few rhymes).
Common Cantonese-K words that keeps being G is difficult to find, however, as it correlated with phonological restrictions in Early Middle Chinese. It's mostly mutated to "J" in Yulin, like things of 求 近.
The pronunciation of 八九 is also "significantly" (for the ears, not eyes) different from Cantonese.

However, it's much easier to find Cantonese T' correlating to their D and Cantonese P' correlating with their B.
I mean things like "婆 with a B" and "台 with a D".

What are other characteristics of the siyi accent?

The dialects are quite divergent from each other, it's difficult to find a common Siyi feature that is distinctive from other Yue branches.
One thing I can be expect is that they can't pronounce the "eung" (長 張 將) and "yu" (乳 魚 雨) rhymes of standard Cantonese properly (though neither can Hakka).

Well, talking about Siyi dialect itself instead of "common mistake of Siyi people in pronouncing standard Cantonese", in general.. it's very easy to distinguish Siyi from Cantonese just by taking random examples.

There are 2 "local words" is often taken by standard Cantonese speakers to separate out Siyi speakers: "Fish" is "ngui", "Eat" is "hiak" or "yaak".

Another common distortion in Kaiping/Taishan (but not in most other Siyi) would be some words that you thought to be Ch/J in Hong Kong would be more like T/D; (e.g. 清 = Ting rather than Ching, for 青 I would expect Tiang not Cheng). Some S words become more like Thl (e.g. 三 sounds like Slaam).
what you would expect to be Hong Kong T'/D is found in H/(no written consonant) instead, e.g. 台 is "Hoi" and 鄧 is "Ang".

To me it's only slightly easier to find word that are pronounced the same in Siyi and Cantonese when compared to Cantonese vs Mandarin.

So I think the discussion would be more efficient if you just take random words and let the forummers see what it's like. (given the difference, even if the Romanization is nonstandard one would be able to tell)

Perhaps they just picked up the siyi accent from interacting with the Chinese community over here.

I'm not sure what type of Chinese language is dominant in places over Vietnam, though many different types of Southeastern Chinese speech might be found?

You wouldn't happen to know where I can get the generation poam for my surname 巫 would you?

I cannot even know my generation poem. It seemed to be safe-guarded somewhere by my father's uncle.
As it's been (supposedly) 100 generations and... we ran out of characters, newer generations tend to simply deviate from the poem (no further consultation on this).

I am sure many rural chinese villages out there have families with the surname 黃. Is it by any chance common in siyi?

It seems to be very common in Southeastern China. "Wong" is one of the most common surnames in Hong Kong.

Edited by qrasy, 30 April 2010 - 11:20 AM.

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One thing is for certain: the more profoundly baffled you have been in your life, the more open your mind becomes to new ideas. - Neil deGrasse Tyson

#13 zomis93

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 05:52 AM

I guess that the sound is not "personal lisping", otherwise... you should also notice this sound in her accent of English or Vietnamese?


Correct. My mom pronounces her S sounds perfectly.

There are 2 "local words" is often taken by standard Cantonese speakers to separate out Siyi speakers: "Fish" is "ngui", "Eat" is "hiak" or "yaak".

My parents are fans of HK dramas, so I think they are in the habit of conforming most of there vocabulary to HK Cantonese. I occasionally catch my mom saying nei instead of ni. So they say eat as 'sik' and three as 'sam'. However, they still use different pronunciations for some words despite knowing the HK equivalent for some reason. Water is sui and not seoi. Women is nui and not neoi. Ngui is fish eh? My parents call fish 'yi'.Is this another example of their native ngai leaking over into their cantonese? :puzzle:


So I think the discussion would be more efficient if you just take random words and let the forummers see what it's like. (given the difference, even if the Romanization is nonstandard one would be able to tell)


Like I said up above, I think about 90 percent of their cantonese has been Hk-ified. All the examples above are the only examples I can think of. Perhaps I will find some more when they get back.

#14 qrasy

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 09:49 AM

Correct. My mom pronounces her S sounds perfectly.

So do you notice normal s also used in the variant?
I don't expect Hakka (except those directly Southwest of Meizhou prefecture) to have "2 different types of s".

Water is sui and not seoi. Women is nui and not neoi. Ngui is fish eh? My parents call fish 'yi'.Is this another example of their native ngai leaking over into their cantonese? :puzzle:

All those do not appear to be genuine Hakka words (except sui, but it has a different tone in Hakka), however they are quite similar to a Hakka's tendency in mispronouncing Cantonese. (And at the same time, also similar to Kaiping/Taishan-dialect speaking people's mistakes of Cantonese).
The "slurred u followed by i" (eoi) of Cantonese is replaced with "regular ui", and "rounded i" (yu) of Cantonese is often changed with "normal i".
(usual Hakka word for fish is usually "ng". However those whose surname is 吳 would use "ngi" because of "homophone collision")

HK-ization would actually also mean tendency of mixed n-l or "hypercorrective ng" (unless it's really very early form of Cantonese, which is unlikely to be found nowadays).

And then, do you find that they mispronounce "eung" sound of Hong Kong Cantonese? How they mispronounce the rhyme can distinguish Kaiping/Taishan accent from Hakka accent.

Edited by qrasy, 01 May 2010 - 09:56 AM.

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#15 zomis93

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 07:12 PM

And then, do you find that they mispronounce "eung" sound of Hong Kong Cantonese? How they mispronounce the rhyme can distinguish Kaiping/Taishan accent from Hakka accent.

Hmmm.... Based on the cantonese dictionary audio file... they seem to pronounce it correctly. How would a hakka accented Cantonese person pronounce it compared to a taishan person??




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