As someone who's more or less a native Cantonese speaker, I've noticed that some speakers from mainland China (from Cantonese speaking areas) sound "weird", in that I could clearly notice a difference between them and Hong Kong speakers.

Unfortunately, I can't find a video on YouTube of some examples, but I know of Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong who attribute this to "鄉音". (I have most definitely seen something of the sort on some Hong Kong news channels before, but it's difficult to locate any specific clips.)

Is there anything that generally characterizes these deviations from the sort of Cantonese that might be spoken by Hong Kongers or is the potential "鄉音" influence impossible to generalize? (Some link to another analysis on the internet could also come in handy.)

This would seem relevant, but the difference I'm interested in is more of the difference between a subset of mainland speakers and other Cantonese speakers. For what it's worth, I have not seen the same differences among Chinese American Cantonese speakers with family from mainland China, and I know of mainland Chinese who essentially speak "properly". I am also not sure if this is a non-native speaker problem, particularly in areas like Shenzhen where Mandarin might be more heavily used. But at the very least, note that I am interested in non-standard pronunciation among some mainland Chinese in Cantonese speaking areas, and not, say, a Beijing Mandarin-speaker who knows some Cantonese.

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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_Cantonese Gives some deviations between 香港话 and the speech on the mainland in 广东 etc. Generally seems to be things like: Merging of /n/ initial into /l/ initial; Merging of /ng/ initial into null initial; Merging of /kw/ and /kwh/ initials into /k/ and /kh/ when followed by /ɔː/; Merging of /ng/ coda into /n/ coda; Merging of entering-tone (入聲) /k/ coda into /t/ coda analogously; Merging of /ng/ into /m̩/; Merging of some /tsh/ into /ts/. But, I don't speak 粤语 at all, so can't offer as cohesive an answer as someone who does
    – sqrtbottle
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 22:21
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    There are some interesting maps on the changes in initials and finals in the top voted answer on this Zhihu page: zhihu.com/question/22489255?rf=22034987
    – imrek
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 7:02
  • I live in Hong Kong. I just account this as Hong Kong styled Cantonese and Guangzhou Styled Cantonese. Why? Because we do have different sayings and often we don't use the same when speaking. I think of this as language > dialect > style Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 9:35

2 Answers 2


Actually, HK's Cantonese is not the standard of Yue Chinese. The standard is in Guangzhou (and around, like Foshan). Second, there are many many dialects of Cantonese, and you could say that every village has its own variation. Even places like Panyu or Dongguan have their own dialect, and they are not so easy to understand. Tones are different, some vowels too. My favorite example is the local name of Dongguan, where 東 is pronounced somewhat akin to 登: dang1 gun2.

With migrations, it is now sometimes harder to find real local people, but there are still plenty around. And even my HK friends blink like deers in the headlights when faced with such people.

Taishanese people are spread around Guangdong, and speak both Taishanese and standard Cantonese, the way, more or less Sicilian people speak Sicilian and Italian. Taishanese is funny in the sense that it feels like Cantonese, but most of the time what you can hear is static.

Hakka people in Huizhou, Meizhou and around speak Cantonese quasi-natively, at least the older folks, but again they sound "off".

Lastly, you'll find in Guangdong a very large contingent of Guangxi people. When Shenzhen was first started, Guangxi people rushed there -- Guangxi is so poor and desolate that anywhere else sounded like a good deal to the locals... East Guangxi people speak a strange variant of Cantonese. The vowels are off, the tones seem random, they nasalize every second syllable, but somehow it's vaguely understandable. You might have heard Guangxi people.

  • Yeah it occurred to me that assuming a one-size fits all standard was probably partly the problem. Granted the variation I saw in Guangzhou area speakers seemed much more minimal, so I ended up assuming it was just a result of people from other areas having strange (to me) accents.
    – user5714
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 4:37
  • Indeed. Plenty of strange accents out there. I also forgot to mention Malaysian Chinese, who mostly have tone variations, and some weird words sometimes. You can hear plenty of them in HK.
    – dda
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 5:52

Edit: Sorry that I misunderstood the question. I thought Maroon was talking about non-native Cantonese speakers.

Most native Mandarin speakers have trouble handling the rising (上聲) and departing tones (去聲) in Cantonese. It is because Cantonese further differentiates them into high-rising (陰上), low-rising (陽上), high-level (陰去) and low-level (陽去). (Please refer to http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%9B%9B%E8%81%B2#.E7.8E.B0.E4.BB.A3.E6.96.B9.E8.A8.80.E5.A3.B0.E8.B0.83.E5.AF.B9.E7.85.A7 for the exact tone contours.)

They also have difficulties pronouncing checked tones (入聲) as they are also absent from Mandarin. And, again, there are three levels of checked tones (陰入, 中入 and 陽入), making it even more difficult to manage.

  • Makes sense, but I'm not really sure if this completely resolves things. I'm wondering about Cantonese speakers from the Guangdong area, and native speakers of Cantonese might comprise a good portion of this set.
    – user5714
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 10:07
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    For native Cantonese speakers of different regions, I notice some slight variation in the pronunciation of the finals and the handling of the tones as a whole. Also, they speak voiced (濁音) characters in a more pronounced manner.
    – Henry HO
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 11:26
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    Got to add that those people are all over 40 years old. For the younger generations, I am not really sure. Just hope Cantonese won't face the same challenge as Shanghainese (zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/…).
    – Henry HO
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 11:38
  • More info in chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/10708/…
    – Henry HO
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 11:41

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