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Incompatibility Issues

Sound Conversion

Tone Conversion

Cantonese-Mandarin Chart

Mandarin-Cantonese Chart



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Sound Conversions

Conversion Issues

Cantonese and Mandarin phonemes do not convert to each other on a strict one to one basis.  For any one Cantonese pronunciation there may be several possible Mandarin sounds.  For any one Mandarin phoneme there may be many possible Cantonese sounds.

The sound chart does not reference specific characters, but rather groups of characters that have the same pronunciation.  The equivalent Mandarin sounds listed do not apply to individual characters, but rather to individual sounds.  The majority of characters have only one pronunciation (sound and tone) while most Cantonese sounds have more than one possible equivalent in Mandarin.

For example, the following correspondence is found on the sound conversion chart:

chyun chuan || quan || cun || cuan || cu || chuai# || chu# || zhui*

For the Cantonese sound chyun there are 8 possible Mandarin equivalents.  Two of the sounds, chuan and quan , are very common and are the most likely Mandarin pronunciation for a given character pronounced chyun in Cantonese.  However, of the 34 characters listed, only 4 have multiple Mandarin pronunciations, and 3 of those are because they also have multiple Cantonese pronunciations as well.


One of the expected patterns evident from compiling the sound chart is that most of the Mandarin sounds are in some way a cognate to the Cantonese sounds.  While there are some Mandarin sounds that have no resemblance to their Cantonese counterparts, in most cases Mandarin pronunciations have some common feature with the Cantonese sounds.

In addition, there are some sounds in Cantonese that tend to convert a specific way.  For example, the endings "-im" and "-in" both become "-ian" in Mandarin in almost every case irrespective of the initial sound.  By recognizing these relationships, learning correct conversion principles is greatly simplified.


The chart can not only be used to learn Mandarin, but can also be used as a ready look-up reference.  Some characters of a particular pronunciation do not fit the common conversion patterns.  While it is of little value to memorize the exceptions for common use, having them listed provides a way to look up characters in Mandarin pinyin when a character converts in an atypical manner.

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