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Cantonese, one of the most developed variations of Chinese, is mainly spoken in the city of Guangzhou, as well as in many overseas Chinese communities such as Malaysia, the UK and Canada. However, although Cantonese is recognised as part of the Chinese language, its pronunciation, lexis, and grammar differ greatly from those of regular Mandarin Chinese. It is true that non-Cantonese speakers might find it difficult to pick up this dialectal language at once, but it is still interesting to know some of the differences between the two languages. In this article, I introduce five items of vocabulary that are thought to be unique to the Cantonese language. Feel free to have fun with these words and create your own sentences with them. If you have friends that speak this dialectal language, speak to them – they will be impressed by your foreign language skills!
奄尖 [yim-dzim] adjective
Meaning: overly picky
Example: Don’t be so ‘yim-dzim’ towards your egg tart, you are lucky to have Chinese food in the UK at all!
論盡 [lən-dzən] adjective
Example: You are very ‘lən-dzən’; you spilled half of my olive oil in the kitchen!
濕碎 [sub-seui] adjective
Example: Don’t worry, the mistake you have made is very ‘sub-seui’!
核突 [wəd-dəd] adjective
Example: Lady Gaga’s new hairstyle is so ‘wəd-dəd’, I hope she fixes her hair soon!
詐諦 [dza-dəi] verb
Example: You don’t need to ‘dza-dəi’, I know you faked being ill to skip today’s seminar!
written by Jessie Fok
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham