Consonants and Vowels

Week 2

  1. Vowels

  2. Consonants

  3. Tones

  4. Grammar

Vowels

In week one, we can classify vowels into principal vowels or mono-syllabic vowels, the mixed vowels which can also be classify further into mixing between principal vowels, the diphthongs and the ending vowels:

principal vowels or principals:

a, i, u, e, o, y, oe (7 principals)

Diphthongs:

ai,aai,au,aau,ui,iu,ei,(no ie),oi,ou,oei (10 diphthongs)

Endings:

am,an,ang,ap,ak,at,aam,aan,aang,aap,aak,aat, im,in,ing,ip,ik,it, un,ung,uk,ut,on,ong,ok,ot,oen,oeng,oek,oet, eng, ek, yn,yt


To see the pattern of the combinations, under 'a' principal vowels, we have 'a' and 'aa', the long and the short when it is used to create diphthongs and endings, so you will see the ai and aai, au and aau etc. Also with am, an, ang, ap, ak, and at, you will have the corresponding aam, aan, aang, aap,aak and aat etc. We will use a table to illustrate the pattern:


principal vowels

Diphthongs

Ending with m, n and ng

Ending with p, k and t

a,aa

ai, au

aai,aau

am,an,ang

aam,aan,aang

ap,ak,at

aap,aak,aat

i

iu

im,in,ing

ip,ik,it

u

ui

un,ung

uk,ut

e

ei

eng

ek

o

oi, ou

un,ung

uk,ut

y


yn

yt

oe

oey

oen,oeng

oek,oet

7 totals

10 totals

17 totals

17 totals

Total vowels=7+10+17+17=3x17=51 and adding m and ng will be the 53 as analysed earlier by Mr. Wong Sek Ling.


Consonants

With the zero consonants or silent consonant, we have a total of 20 consonants. Using – to stand for the zero consonant, the list is like:

-, b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, g, k, ng, h, gw, kw, w, z, c, s, j

The consonant 'j' is different of 'j' in putonghua, it is like 'y' but 'y' is used as vowels in cantonese syllable representation.

Notice that b, p, m, f uses the lip; d, t, n, l uses the tongue; g, k, ng, h, gw, kw, w uses the cavity and throat, the z, c, s, j uses the cavity with tongue and controlling the burst of air from the throat. So they can be categorized as such.

You will also note that each consonant is supposed to combine with all vowels mentioned (53) and actually none of the consonant will have all 53 vowels and especially m, n are special vowels that they do not have any consonant to go with it. And even no consonant have all 51 vowels. So the total syllables will be less than 20x51=1020. I think the total is just about 600-700.


Tones

We have just mentioned that the entering ending vowels are the ones ending with p, k, t. As shown in the table that there are only 17 out of the 51, excluding the m and n vowels. These entering vowels have only 3 levels of tones called, high, middle and low numbered with 7, 8 and 9.

All other vowels have 6 tones which is labelled with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Using this system, we can have a syllable such as z aang 1 or zaang1. z is the consonants, aang is the vowel and 1 is the tone.

You can tell from the sylllable zaang1 that z is the consonants aang is the vowels and 1 is the tone.

Zaang7 is not a valid syllable as zaang is non-entering and can only have tone level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.

zaat7 is valid syllable as aat vowel is entering and tone level of 7, 8, or 9 are valid. These basic guideline is important when using the ping jaam for the cantonese.


Try to say the following syllables:


Identity the tone level as well.


The Grammar

Usually chinese does not have any rules called grammar, be putonghua or cantonese. With the introduction of the English, we can analyse cantonese using the grammatical way as in English:

The Noun

You, Me(I) and Him are и. But in Cantonese, и蔦

Syllables: nei(1,2,3,4,5,6) ngo (1,2,3,4,5,6) koei(1,2,3,4,5,6)

The Verb

Eat, Talk, Sit, Walk, Sleep are (), (), Г, (ǐ), ()

Syllables: sik(7,8,9)hek(7,8,9) gong(1,2,3,4,5,6)syut(7,8,9) zo(1,2,3,4,5,6)co(1,2,3,4,5,6) hang(1,2,3,4,5,6)haang(1,2,3,4,5,6)zau(1,2,3,4,5,6) fan(1,2,3,4,5,6)soei(1,2,3,4,5,6)


The Adjective

Beautiful, Bright, Fat, Dumb, Smart are , , , ,

Syllables: leng3, gwong1, fei4, ceon2, zeng1