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What does "gam" mean in these two contexts, and why is a different character used in each?

Note 咁 used in this sentence

我睇見你坐喺梳化椅處, 唔停咁同張太太,何太太,王小姐佢哋傾偈。

(ngo5 tai2 gin3 nei5 co5 hai2 so1 faa2 ji2 syu3, m4 ting4 gam2 tung4 zoeng1 taai3 taai2, ho6 taai3 taai2, wong4 siu2 ze2 keoi5 dei6 king1 gai2)

My attempted translation is "I saw you sitting around the sofa, chatting non-stop with Mrs. Cheung, Mrs. Ho, and Ms. Wang."

In the book, this character was transliterated with the second tone, which is a rising tone. When I looked it up in Cantodict, it shows up as a third tone, which is flat.

Now, look at 噉 used in this sentence

我係被迫要唔停噉大聲傾偈啫,實在我唔想gaa3。

(ngo5 hai6 bei6 bik1 jiu3 m4 ting4 gam2 daai6 seng1 king1 gai2 ze1, sat6 zoi6 ngo5 m4 soeng2 gaa3)

My translation is "I was forced to talk in a loud voice non-stop, but I really didn't want to."

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+1 for asking about cantonese. i have way more cantonese questions at the moment than mandarin ones, and i stupidly did not think to ask them on this site –  magnetar Feb 16 '12 at 14:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you happen to be familiar with Mandarin or Standard Written Chinese, the Cantonese character 咁 (gam3) corresponds to 這麼 or 那麼 and 噉 (gam2) corresponds to 這樣 or 那樣. As jogloran mentioned, 咁 is a prefix modifier whereas 噉 is postfix or a standalone pronoun.

You'll often see 咁 written where gam2 is intended, which is likely the reason why 咁 appears in your first example instead of 噉. This is due to the fact that written Cantonese is not standardized, so some people are not necessarily aware of which character to use. For consistency sake though, I always use 咁 for gam3 and 噉 for gam2.

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咁 (gam3) and 噉 (gam2) have very similar meanings: 'to this extent', 'so', 'such'.

However, 咁 (gam3) pre-modifies adjectives, and 噉 (gam2) post-modifies verbs. 噉 (gam2) or 噉樣 (gam2joeng6*2) also occurs as a pronoun meaning 'like this/that'.

I think the occurrence of 咁 in the first sentence should probably be written as 噉 (gam2) as well... after all, 敢 has the reading gam2 too.

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