KBC: What is the most common form of Chinese that is spoken in the South of China, Hong Kong and Macau?





Answer: Cantonese

Cantonese is a Sino-Tibetan language belonging to the Chinese (Sinitic) branch that was developed in Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) and the surrounding region in southeast China. It belongs to the Yue Chinese dialect family, which has approximately 80 million native speakers and is known for its traditional prestige variant. Even though the name Cantonese only refers to the prestige variant, it is frequently used to describe the whole Yue subgroup of Chinese, including related but mostly incomprehensible dialects and languages like Taishanese.

Large sections of Southeastern China, Hong Kong, Macau, as well as in expatriate communities, see Cantonese as an essential and integral element of their cultural identity. It is the dominant language of the province of Guangdong on the Chinese mainland, as well as nearby Guangxi and the Pearl River Delta. Additionally, Hong Kong and Macau also have it as their primary and co-official language. In Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as to a lesser extent in Singapore and Cambodia, Cantonese is also extensively spoken among Overseas Chinese, as well as in the Western world.

Cantonese and Mandarin share a huge amount of vocabulary, however the two Sinitic languages are incomprehensible to one another due to phonetic variations as well as variances in grammar and lexicon. Sometimes there are differences between the two types of sentence construction, particularly in the arrangement of verbs. Because so few Cantonese speakers are familiar with the whole Cantonese written vocabulary, a non-verbatim formalized written form is used instead, which is more similar to the Mandarin written form. Both Cantonese and Mandarin can be recorded verbatim.

As a result, a Cantonese and a Mandarin text may appear to be same but be spoken differently. On the other hand, written (vernacular) Cantonese is primarily utilized in casual contexts, as on social media and in comic books.

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