This article is about the language of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong and Macau. For related languages and dialects, see Yue Chinese. For other uses, see Cantonese (disambiguation).
廣東話 / 广东话
Gwóngdūng Wá / gwong2 dung1 waa2
Gwóngdūng Wá / gwong2 dung1 waa2 (Cantonese) written in traditional Chinese (left) and simplified Chinese (right) characters
Native to China, Hong Kong, Macau, overseas communities
Region Guangdong, eastern Guangxi
Written Cantonese
Cantonese Braille
Written Chinese
Official status
Official language in
  Hong Kong
Regulated by
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 yyef (Yue F)
guzh (Guangzhou)
Glottolog cant1236 [2]
Linguasphere 79-AAA-ma

Cantonese, or Standard Cantonese ( t廣東話, s广东话; originally known as t廣州話, s广州话), [3] [4] is a variant of Yue Chinese spoken in the vicinity of Guangdong (known historically as Canton in Western European languages) in southern China. It is the traditional prestige dialect of Yue.

Cantonese is the language of the Cantonese people. In mainland China, it is a lingua franca of the province of Guangdong and some neighbouring areas, such as Guangxi. It is the majority language of Hong Kong, Macau and the Pearl River Delta region of China. Cantonese is also one of the major varieties of Chinese spoken amongst overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia (most notably in Vietnam and Malaysia, and to a lesser extent in Singapore and Cambodia) and the predominant variety spoken in the Western World, especially in the United States, Canada, Western Europe and Australia.

While the term Cantonese refers narrowly to the prestige variety, it is often used in a broader sense for the entire Yue branch of Chinese, including related but largely mutually unintelligible dialects such as Taishanese. When standard Cantonese and the closely related Yuehai dialects are classified together, there are about 80 million total speakers. [5]

Cantonese is viewed as part of the cultural identity for its native speakers across large swathes of southern China, Hong Kong and Macau. Although Cantonese shares some vocabulary with Mandarin, the two varieties are mutually unintelligible because of differences in pronunciation, grammar and lexicon. Sentence structure, in particular the placement of verbs, sometimes differs between the two varieties. A notable difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is how the spoken word is written; both can be recorded verbatim but very few Cantonese speakers are knowledgeable in the full Cantonese written vocabulary, so a non-verbatim formalised written form is adopted which is more akin to the Mandarin written form. [6] [7] This results in the situation in which a Mandarin and Cantonese text may look similar, but are pronounced differently.


In English, the term "Cantonese" is ambiguous. Cantonese proper is the variety native to the city of Canton, which is the traditional English name of Guangzhou. This narrow sense may be specified as "Canton language" or "Guangzhou language" in English. [8]

However, "Cantonese" may also refer to the primary branch of Cantonese that contains Cantonese proper as well as Taishanese and Gaoyang; this broader usage may be specified as "Yue" ( s; t). In this article, "Cantonese" is used for Cantonese proper.

Historically, speakers called this variety "Canton speech" or "Guangzhou speech" ( s广州话; t廣州話, [9]), although this term is now seldom used outside mainland China. In Guangdong province, people also call it "provincial capital speech" ( s省城话; t省城話) [10] or "plain speech" ( s白话; t白話). [11]

In Hong Kong and Macau, as well as among overseas Chinese communities, the language is referred to as "Guangdong speech" ( s广东话; t廣東話, [12]) or simply "Chinese" (中文, [13]). [14] In mainland China, the term "Guangdong speech" is also increasingly being used among both native and non-native speakers.

Due to its status as a prestige dialect among all the dialects of the Cantonese or Yue branch of Chinese varieties, it is often called "Standard Cantonese" ( s标准粤语; t標準粵語). [15]