Cantonese is a unique language spoken in the Guangdong province of China. It’s a deep language, and there is a whole list of languages similar to Cantonese.
Some major names on the list include Hakka, Min, Wu, Mandarin, Yue, etc. These options are worth considering if you want to learn a new language that is close to Cantonese.
Languages Similar To Cantonese – 10 Languages!
Cantonese is a Chinese dialect spoken in China, especially in the south. It has a unique set of tones and intonations distinguish it from other languages.
While Cantonese is an isolated language, still, there are languages similar to Cantonese. There are common in terms of grammar and pronunciation.
These languages include Hakka, Min, Wu, Mandarin Chinese, and Yue.
Some other languages that have similarities with Cantonese include Taiwanese, Teochew, and Tanka.
Hakka is mainly spoken in southeastern China and some parts of Taiwan. At the same time, the Min languages are famous in Fujian- China.
In the same way, Wu has roots in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, and Anhui.
In short, Wu, Hakka, Min, and other close languages share a lot as all are regionally connected. Therefore, to learn Cantonese in-depth, you must consider these languages.
Now, we will explore some commonalities between Cantonese and languages similar to Cantonese.
Taiwanese is a language that has similarities to Cantonese. It is mostly spoken in Taiwan and also in parts of mainland China.
It has a very close grammatical structure and phonological system to Cantonese. For instance, the phoneme /r/ is the same in both languages.
Phonemes are units that distinguish meaning in languages. For example, “pat” and “bat” only differ in one phoneme.
Furthermore, some of the core lexical items are similar between the two languages.
For example, the words for “one” and “two” are yat (一) and yee (二), respectively, in both languages.
Moreover, the grammar structure has many similarities. For instance, the word order of Cantonese and Taiwanese is subject-verb-object (SVO). So, both share many similarities.
Shanghainese is another language that bears several similarities to Cantonese.
First, the phonology of Shanghainese is quite similar to that of Cantonese. Both languages share several distinctive tones, resulting in a lot of homophones.
For example, the characters 樂 (lok6), 率 (sut3), and 六 (luk6) in Cantonese all have the same tone (六).
In terms of vocabulary, the lexical items are also quite the same between the two languages.
For instance, both languages use the same words for common objects like ‘book’ (書/书), ‘table’ (枱/台), and ‘chair’ (椅/椿).
Moreover, the grammar structure bears some commonality as well.
For instance, both languages use subject-verb-object (SVO) word order. It helps reduce ambiguity when understanding spoken sentences.
Mandarin is China’s official language. It is a close relative to Cantonese and Taiwanese.
It also shares a lot of similarities with the two languages. For instance, it uses an SVO word order. For instance, if you say “I love you” in Mandarin, it would be “Wo ai ni”.
Here subject “Wo” (I) comes first, followed by the verb “ai” (love), and finally, the object “ni. In Cantonese, you would say “Ngo oi nei”; the same SVO structure exists here.
In addition, the languages also share a vocabulary. For example, the word for “yes” in both languages is “shi”.
Further, Mandarin and Cantonese also have common characters. So individuals from either language could easily understand.
Tanka is a Chinese dialect spoken in Hong Kong and Guangdong province. It is another language similar to Cantonese.
Some languages’ grammar, like the placement of subject-verb-object, follows the same pattern.
Furthermore, Tanka and Cantonese have common vocabulary, tones, and characters. For instance, the Cantonese word for “father” is “baa”, which is also the same in Tanka.
In addition, many of the characters in Cantonese also exist in Tanka. For example, the character for “mountain” is 山 in Cantonese and the same for Tanka.
Finally, both languages use the tone system to distinguish words and context.
Thus, if you are already familiar with Cantonese, learning Tanka should be easier!
Languages like Min are closely related to Cantonese. Specifically, it has the same grammar structure and phonology system as Cantonese.
For example, elements like aspirated consonants, voiced consonants, and tones are all shared.
The vocabulary words used in Min are often very similar to those used in Cantonese. For example, the word for “person” is 人 in both languages.
Furthermore, many characters in Min have strong roots in Chinese characters.
This makes them familiar to Cantonese speakers. Like a character for “sister” is 姊 in both languages.
In addition, tone rules exist between both languages. This means both depend on tones to determine the meaning of words and sentences.
Therefore, languages similar to Cantonese, like Min, are easy for Cantonese speakers.
Wu is another language spoken in the same region as Cantonese. It shares many similarities with languages similar to Cantonese.
Wu languages have words that are often very similar to Cantonese. For example, the word for “mountain” is 山 in Wu languages.
Furthermore, the grammar and syntax of Wu languages are close to Cantonese.
An example is using the same particles when expressing questions, i.e., 吗/嗎 Meaning “right?” or “isn’t it?”.
Finally, Wu languages also share similar tones to Cantonese. For example, the word “ma” can have meanings like “you” or “mother”, depending on the tone in which it is said.
So people familiar with Cantonese have an advantage when learning languages like Wu.
Hakka is the language of Chinese people living in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of Southeast Asia. It shares a lot of similarities with languages similar to Cantonese.
For example, many Hakka words have the same root as Cantonese words, such as ‘house’ (家), ‘water’ (水), and ‘good’ (好).
Furthermore, the grammar of Hakka is almost identical to that of Cantonese. For instance, both languages use the same tense markers, particles, and prepositions.
Also, Hakka and Cantonese share many traditional sayings and idioms. Therefore, it makes them easy for both types of speakers to learn.
Like, a famous Cantonese saying ‘活到老,學到老’ (learning never stops) is also widely used in Hakka.
Another commonality between both languages is the use of characters. Both these languages use special characters(粵拼) to help with pronunciation rather than alphabets.
Much like Hakka, Yue is the Chinese language close to Cantonese. It is mainly spoken in Guangdong province. Thus, it has many common points with the Cantonese dialect.
For example, their words tend to have similar sounds due to the shared pronunciation of syllables. For example, the Cantonese word for “sun” is 日 (yat), and in Yue, it is also yat.
Also, they share some of the same characters, such as ‘book’ (本) or ‘time’ (時).
The grammar used in Yue also follows the same structure as Cantonese. For instance, both languages use the same type of subject-verb-object structure.
In addition, Yue and Cantonese follow very similar structures regarding verb conjugation.
The two languages are so close that it has sometimes been mistaken for being another dialect of Cantonese.
Therefore, learning them is easier to communicate with people speaking either language.
Xi is a Chinese dialect spoken in Jiangxi, Fujian, and Taiwan. It is close to Cantonese and Yue in terms of vocabulary usage, grammar, and conjugation rules.
The three languages have many common words, such as ‘big’ (大), ‘small’ (小), or ‘good’ (好).
In addition, they share verb conjugation rules like the usage of 了 (le) to express a completed action.
For instance, in Cantonese, one would say 做完 (zou6 faan1) to express the meaning of ‘to finish doing’. In Xi, it would be 做完了 (zou6 faan1 le).
Also, some linguists believe that Xi has adopted words from Cantonese. For example, the word for ‘crocodile’ (鱷) is found in both Cantonese and Xi languages.
Therefore, understanding one language can help with understanding another.
Gan languages are part of the Sino-Tibetan languages. This is common in China’s Jiangxi Province, parts of Hubei, Hunan, and Fujian.
Gan languages share many similar phonological features to Cantonese. Like, multiple tones with slight variations in their pronunciation are the same.
For instance, certain words have a “light” version of the third tone (ex: 回 (hui2) for ‘return’).
In addition, Gan shares linguistic characters with Cantonese.
This makes the languages quite similar. For example, people use the same characters for “rain” in both languages (雨 (yuh)).
Another similarity between Cantonese and Gan is their syntax. Both languages follow the Subject-Verb-Object structure. This shows both are close to each other.
Learning a second language can be difficult. However, choosing closely related options makes things a bit easier.
The same rule goes for languages similar to Cantonese. It is a great way to learn a new language and understand the basics of languages already learned.
The languages mentioned above, like Hakka, Teochew, and Gan, are great options.
Further, Xi, Shanghainese, Wu, Taiwanese, etc., are useful for those wanting to explore languages similar to Cantonese.
These languages are great starting points if you’re looking to expand your knowledge.
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