I've been listening to some Cantonese audio from Pimsleur and noticed they use a different word for "what" compared to what I learned from CantoneseClass101. In CC101, they used 咩, such as "咩事啊?", whereas the audio I just listened to is using sentences like "你想飲乜野啊?" What is the difference if any?
It's a contraction. (合音)
Cantonese contracts 乜嘢 (mat1 ye5) 'what?' to 咩 (me1).
Common words spoken fast often have the first initial mixed in with the last final. For example 咩 takes the "m" from 乜 and the ending "e" from 嘢, creating the contracted form: me.
Same meaning, same usage - just quicker speeds.
You will find many contractions in Chinese topolects.
2Is that then analogous to 什麽 and 啥 in Mandarin? Cuz that would make a lot of sense if that was the case.– user31212Aug 20, 2022 at 2:10
The linked page doesn't have examples of Cantonese contraction. E.g. 係唔係 -->係咪– Tang Ho ♦Aug 20, 2022 at 2:12
2@ShawnHemelstrand It has been proposed that 啥 is probably a fusion of 什麼／什么 (shénme), so yes that is correct.– Mou某 ♦Aug 20, 2022 at 2:13
1This brings me to suggest that the verbal contraction of 乜野 to 咩 with the latter written with a "Sheep", 羊, component, is no coincidence as the 咩 sounds like the bleating sheep. Listen to this:- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sheep_bleating.ogg Aug 20, 2022 at 2:54
The contraction of 乜嘢 sounds kind of like me1 e5 (kind of like a descending tone which doesn't otherwise exist in Cantonese), whereas the particle 咩 is pronounced me1. So to me, they are not the same. Aug 22, 2022 at 6:19