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Chinese Language – Cantonese

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Cantonese is the English writing of Cantonese. This word has been used internationally for hundreds of years together with the English name Canton in Guangzhou. The term comes from the foreigner’s name Canton for Guangzhou. In the more authoritative “The Oxford English Dictionary”, Canton explained: sb. The name of the city in southern China.




The following paragraph is excerpted from an English Canton Guide (Canton Guide, by Kerr, John Glasgow, 1824-1901) written by John Glasgow Kerr published in 1889, which involves foreigners’ views on Guangzhou and the provincial capital of Guangdong at that time, “Guangzhou House” expression. The City of Canton is situated on Pearl River, 90 miles from Hongkong, On Lat 23 degrees 7 minutes N., and Long. 113 degrees 14 1/2 minutes E.


It is the Capital of Kwong-tung Province and contains about 1,000,000 inhabitants. It is the residence of the Viceroy of the two Kwong Provinces, and of high military and civil officials of the Province. It is also the seat of the officers of the Kwong Chau Department, and as the City is built in two Districts or Counties, it contains the Offices of two District Magistrates. In the article, “Canton” is used for “Guangzhou”, “Kwong-tung Province” “Guangdong Province”, “Kwong Chau Department” for “Guangzhou House”, and “Viceroy of the two Kwong Provinces” for “Governor of Guangdong and Guangxi”. The “two Districts or Counties” referred to as “The South China Sea and Panyu”. It can be seen that the distinction between the level of jurisdiction and place names at that time was quite clear.




The first argument is that Pu Taoya’s earliest use.


As to which country people spell Guangzhou as Canton, there are several theories, among which the following two are more representative. Researcher Zhao Liren of the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, who specializes in the history of Sino-foreign trade and the history of Macao, said that the first foreigners to go to Guangzhou were Portuguese in the 16th century.


The earliest source that can be found for the term Canton is the “Early Macau History” written by the Swedes, which mainly describes the situation of Macau and the Portuguese in China, in which the term Canton was proposed. As for when the Portuguese first called Guangzhou Canton, there is no modern textual research. Since then, the word Canton has also been used in British writings about Guangzhou.



The second argument is invented by the British.


However, a person in charge of the Guangzhou City Geographical Names Office believes that “Canton” is the old spelling of “Cantonese Wittoma” of the word “Guangzhou”, and “Wittoma” was a British diplomatic mission to China from 1841 to 1883. For the official’s name, he designed a set of Roman alphabet phonetic schemes for the phonetic notation of Chinese characters.


“Canton” is exactly the product of this spelling. In order to take care of the native languages ​​of the people everywhere, the National Government of the Republic of China used Cantonese venom to spell the names of local places, people, and buildings in areas where Cantonese was spoken in a large area in Guangdong Province. People in Guangzhou agree that Canton is the true transliteration of the Cantonese pronunciation of the word “Guangzhou”.


Due to the Chinese authorities’ policy of promoting Mandarin and Chinese poeticization in the 1970s, the names of Cantonese Wetoma celebrities were completely banned in Guangzhou and Guangdong Province, and they have only been retained on the ground of certain blocks in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.


Many students in small cities in Guangdong do not know Cantonese Pinyin. Due to the influence of Hong Kong TV and books, and some buildings/businesses still use Cantonese Pinyin, some students at least know the existence of Cantonese Pinyin, and a small number of people understand it. how to use. Pui Ching Middle School resumed using the name Pui Ching Middle of Yuepin school in 2009 and returned to orthodoxy.

common expression


The third argument was first proposed by the French.


Note: Some people think that this is the first “Canton” proposed by the French. As for authenticity, further research is needed. In addition, there is a direct Cantonese transliteration name: “Kwang Chou”.




In foreign countries, many foreigners do not know what “Guangzhou” is. When talking about China, they only know Hong Kong and even Shanghai, but they don’t know Guangzhou. However, Canton and Cantonese (Cantonese) are unknown outside. Speaking of Canton, one naturally thinks of China’s foreign trade capital in the middle of the nineteenth century, which was once ranked fourth in the world. Speaking of Canton, one naturally thinks of the Maritime Silk Road in ancient China; when it comes to Canton, one naturally thinks of the Opium War and Humen.


Tobacco sales, Mr. Sun Yat-sen, and other earth-shattering history and figures; mentioning Canton naturally reminds people of the long and unique Cantonese language, culture, food, and traditions; mentioning Canton naturally reminds people of the famous Canton Fair twice a year).


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