I am interested to learn whether the changes in Hong Kong pronunciation of Cantonese came about, was it because the English in Hong Kong had difficulty understanding the Cantonese?

For instance, I have started to learn Cantonese from CDs and found that the word for "I" which I thought to be pronounced something like "gnaw," always sounded like "no" to me and in my mind set up an expectation of a negative expression; and then I would have to reverse my thinking that it was not.

I guess see where a lot of misunderstanding between English speakers in Hong Kong and the Cantonese speakers might lead the native speakers to alter their speech to be better understood?

Since I am not a linguist, any answer using terms unique to linguistics will not be helpful to me.

  • 3
    No. See wikipedia for details on what changes have taken place. They're very 'natural' changes, and furthermore (as noted in the article), they actually make communication with English speakers harder (e.g., n-l merger). Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 20:33
  • @user5892, That is precisely what has NOT happened interms of language developement, the comment above points to a good brief on wiki about Hong Kong language development. Colloquially if you are more interested in being understood, to say "I", drop the 'gn' from your 'gnaw', ie: " 'aw".
    – D3L
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 2:50
  • 1
    i speak cantonese(malaysia) we say "ngor" and it's look weird to sound "gnaw," sorry that not make sense to me
    – tsohtan
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 9:14

2 Answers 2


I don't really have much experience in this area myself but a similar question has been asked on 百度知道 before, which was answered as follows:

香港的粤语不是最正宗的粤语. 毫无疑问,岭南文 化中心在广州,最正宗的粤语还是在广州! 香港的 粤语有点英语腔.

香港居民说的是粤语,不过里面很多词都掺到很多 英文.


回答楼主,香港的粤语和广东话是一样的,只是前 者略带英腔而己,而且话中多多少少有些英语相掺.


Which says: basically HK-Cantonese isn't much different from Guangdong Cantonese apart from sounding slightly like British accented Cantonese and using lots of English words.

So the changes are more accental and in loan words (or direct usage of English over Chinese) rather than appeasing the British.


To OP user5892,

Hong Kong Cantonese is very different from mainland Cantonese as the two regions have been separate for at least 160+ years. Little exchanged happened, especially when Communists party gained control of mainland China and sealed itself off from the rest of the world since the 1940's.

Hong Kong served as the most significant port for trade in Asia and the West. As a British colony it was the center of trade amongst Britain, British colonies. Hong Kong's language became the fastest evolving language in the world (perhaps still is) as the largest port in the Eastern hemisphere and perhaps the world. Vocabulary from different parts of the world seeped in and integrated into the local language.

A trip I took at one time into mainland Cantonese area gave me trouble communicating with the locals. The difference in Hong Kong Cantonese and Mainland Cantonese was vast enough that every few sentences need clarification.

Language reflect the development of the society and Hong Kong cantonese reflected the unique culture that exists in Hong Kong.

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