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I think probably every metro system around the world has to have an audio announcement warning passengers to stay away from the train's doors as they're closing. Here in New York, a pre-recorded voice phrases it this way: "Stand clear of the closing doors, please."

Hong Kong MTR's announcement is given three times: in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. Working backwards, the English is similar to New York's, but worded slightly differently: “Please stand back from the doors." The Mandarin took me a little while to deduce, but I am fairly confident it is this: "請不要靠近車門" / "qing buyao kao jin chemen" / something like "please do not lean near the vehicle doors."

But my question to you is this: What is the Cantonese? An audio file is linked at the end of this post. It seems to be one less syllable than the Mandarin, which is what I find surprising. I don't know Cantonese Romanization conventions, so I apologize in advance for butchering this, but it sounds to me as something like:Sing ge kao gen sa mon. That makes me think it is basically a different pronunciation of 請__靠近車門, but what in Mandarin is rendered as 不要 is condensed in Cantonese into just one syllable. Is that right?

Here's the audio. The announcement starts about 15 seconds into the 30-second clip.

http://startsandfits.com/audio/MTRdoors-mp4.mp4

Thanks in advance for any clarity.

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The word you are looking for is 勿:

請勿靠近車門 cing2 mat6 kaau3 gan6 ce1 mun4 (Jyutping romanization)

The usage of 請勿 ("Please don't") is considered formal or literary in Cantonese, so it's not typically heard in common speech, but you'll often see it on signs or in public announcements.

EDIT: Just wanted to also add that your deduction of the Mandarin is exactly correct.

  • Awesome. Thanks, Claw. I love this website. Here I've been agonizing over this question for months, and I post it here and it's answered authoritatively in nine minutes! – Tang Nawen Apr 3 '15 at 3:01
  • @TangNawen Welcome to the site! If you like the answer, don't forget to mark it as your accepted answer it by clicking on the checkmark on the left of the answer. – Claw Apr 3 '15 at 4:17
  • Done. Thanks again. I also appreciate the Jyutping, so I can see how my hearing differed from the reality. . . . and it's fascinating that 請勿 is a word in Cantonese but not Mandarin. – Tang Nawen Apr 3 '15 at 11:31
  • @TangNawen 請勿 can be seen in Mandarin too, but its usage would be considered formal or literary as well. 請不要 is much more readily understandable when spoken. The reason why 請勿 is used in Cantonese (rather than the more usually spoken 唔好 m4 hou2 or even more colloquial 咪 mai5) is probably sociolinguistic; pronouncements in Cantonese generally follow written rather than spoken conventions. The written standard used to be Classical/Literary Chinese before it switched to Mandarin-based in the 20th century, but there is still the tendency to retain more Classical phrasing when given the choice. – Claw Apr 3 '15 at 21:03
  • OK, gotcha, thanks. That's a very interesting discussion of the complexities. I know this is just a simple, pre-recorded and repetitive announcement, but, it sheds a lot of light for me on the nuances between written/spoken/Cantonese/Mandarin. Much appreciated. – Tang Nawen Apr 4 '15 at 2:22
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勿 (U+52FF) is a chinese character since oracle bone script; it's a common character in literary chinese.

http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/lexi-mf/search.php?word=勿

cantonese preserve more pronunciations of ancient chinese language; and some characters are still used in cantonese nowadays, while other pronunciation system evolves to used other characters.

some common usages of 勿 in literary chinese:

己所不欲,勿施於人

潛龍勿用

didn't one learn from confucius:

子曰﹒非禮勿視﹒非禮勿聽﹒非禮勿言﹒非禮勿動 :)

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