Is the Cantonese spoken in Guangzhou standardized, and if it is, is it different from Hong Kong and Macau's standard Cantonese? Do some characters have different standard readings in each region, much like how some characters have different standard Mandarin readings in Mainland China and Taiwan? The closest example I could find for Cantonese is the character 「米」 when meaning metre. Below is the explanation given on the Yue Chinese Wikipedia:

米... 廣東地區讀mai1;香港讀mai5

If Cantonese in Guangzhou is indeed standardized, is there an authoritative source that decides on the standard reading of characters? I have found dictionaries published in Mainland China like 廣州話正音字典 and 廣州話方言詞典, but I don't have much insight on how close those dictionaries are to standardized Cantonese in Guangzhou, assuming that exists.

  • 2
    A good if slightly dated (2004) overview: Cantonese as a Written Language
    – Michaelyus
    Feb 11, 2020 at 17:27
  • 1
    You can also look up《现代汉语方言音库 • 广州话音档》and compare《现代汉语方言音库 • 香港话音档》- there's also a《汕头话音档》if that interests you.
    – Mou某
    Feb 12, 2020 at 21:56

3 Answers 3


Practically and politically, no. There is no authority bureau or civil organization/association which advocate standardizing the Cantonese. This is because Cantonese has never been official language. So nobody values a standard or applying a standard. Another reason is, as you observed, though Cantonese are slightly different, their users can still understand mutually. If put in a context, mai1 and mai5 won't confuse HK or GZ people.

As of academically, yes. Scholars define thing first before they discuss it. They deliberately choose pronunciation for characters and words. This is a serious topic and out of my knowledge scope. I would like to be modest.

To answer this question I have learned a bit from my friend in major. She gave me some delight:

  1. Historically there is a renaissance to standardize Cantonese in HK, but receded. [1]
  2. As aforementioned wiki page, 《广州话正音字典》编辑委员会在审音时“都以今音为基础,既考虑语音发展、语音结构的规律性,也考虑语言应用的通用性。特别重视那些已经深入人心,家喻户晓的读音,对一些不合古音及反切的字音,只要已在社会上广泛使用,也考虑承认现实,适当加以保留,或作‘俗’读看待。”. Which means your dictionary respects practical usage and admits Cantonese is not standardized.
  3. For your information, these two dictionaries are authored by professors of JNU(GZ), PolyU(HK), CUHK(HK).[1][2] I am not dare to judge they are authoritative or not.

[1] https://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-hans/%E7%B2%B5%E8%AA%9E%E6%AD%A3%E9%9F%B3%E9%81%8B%E5%8B%95
[2] https://book.douban.com/subject/4070046/


It doesn’t seem like there is an organisation for standardization of Cantonese in Mainland China. After all, this is in line with their policy of Mandarin-only education; people throughout the nation are not fluent in their native dialect, and can only speak Putonghua. In contrast, there are governmental agencies in both Hong Kong and Macau dedicated to the standardization of Cantonese in those territories.

It is worth noting that the HK-Macau standards originate from the pronunciations of downtown Guangzhou speakers. If a Hongkonger were to visit downtown Guangzhou, he would probably face no problems communicating with a local there.

Branching out of the provincial capital of Guangdong, though, there are other accents which are vastly different than that of mainstream media (i.e. HK-Macau-Guangzhou accent). For example, in Shunde, which is just beside Guangzhou, they pronounce their words such that learners of Cantonese might think they were purposely trying to mispronounce the words.

Taishan, which is also within the Pearl River Delta region, is also famous for the Siyi dialects which are related to Cantonese, but are mutually intelligible. In HK-Guangzhou, you would say “ngo” for 我, yet in Taishanese it’s something like “ngoi”.

Of course, you also have pronunciations influenced by Teochew and Hakka, the other two indigenous dialects in the province, as you approach the edges of Guangdong.


There is not language regulation a là la real academia de español, but the province of Guangdong does have an official romanization scheme for Cantonese, which presumably is based on the speech of its namesake city: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese_Transliteration_Scheme which ends up providing some kind of standard in Chinese characters and pronunciation.
I'm a native speaker and can attest that the Cantonese of Hong Kong and that of Gwóngzàu differs almost imperceptibly little in pronunciation. There is a difference in loanwords from English versus Mandarin, but since those terms seem to be acceptable whether you're in HK or GZ, the standardization from HK is often sufficient for communication purposes.

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