I have stumbled upon Zhang Shaolin's Hoi-nam kai-fan. I asked three translation questions about it: 1, 2 and 3. THere you find the lyrics and a link to a video, and my translation attempt. This question is to ask about the strange pronunciations that are present in some points of the song. Precisely:

  1. 来 should be pronounced loi, and is sometimes pronounced lei;
  2. 两 should be pronounced liong according to my reference, but here it is pronounced lioeng, with the same sound as Cantonese loeng (Jyutping being the used romanisation scheme, without tone), save for the extra i;
  3. 歌 should be pronounced ko, and is pronounced kuo once and fo (or rather with a sound like English hard th where I wrote f) shortly after;
  4. 张惠妹 sounds like it's pronounced the mandarin way (Hakka sounds Cong Fui-moi);
  5. 你, in its last occurrence in the last repetition of part three, sounds like it's actually a 系.

Can someone give reasons for these facts? Is the final 你 a typo perhaps? And also, can someone provide me with tone marks (or tone numbers, and naturally an explanation of the contours) for the whole lyrics?

  • Hakka has four (quite) different major variants spoken by four groups of people. I suppose that the song is sung by one group and your dictionary uses another variant as standard.
    – user58955
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 20:42
  • @user58955 my dictionary gives 5 different pronunciations and none of them matches that which I hear. Some guys on Facebook who speak a variety of Hakka give the same as the dictionary in these contexts. So I guess your guess does not apply :). Nice try :).
    – MickG
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 22:01
  • 2
    The singer is from Malaysia, where people speak mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese and Hakka. It is possible that those dialects interfere each other so it is not surprising at all if his Hakka shows some Cantonese traits (such as your point 1 and 2). As to point 4, it is also common in Malaysia and Singapore, even in their daily speeches -- they pronounce certain words in a different dialect -- this is also a common phenomenon in mainland's Min dialect region and Taiwan (but rare in Cantonese-speaking regions).
    – user58955
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 22:42
  • 1
    @user58955 now that explains points 2 and 4. However, point 1 is still not dealt with, since AFAIK 来 is lai in Mandarin, loi in Cantonese, lai in Hokkien and Teochew and loi in Hakka. So lei is still not justified. Could it be me mishearing? What about 3 and 5?
    – MickG
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 8:23
  • 2
    The entire 來帮衬 is in Cantonese. The phrase 帮衬 also exists in Hakka, but is pronounced "bong cin", not "bong chan". This seems to be the only Cantonese used in the whole song; I suspect it's a combination of two reasons: 1. Malaysian stars are predominantly Cantonese speaking, and thus he uses Cantonese when referring to them, just like he pronounces 张惠妹 in Mandarin; 2. pronouncing 衬 as "chan" matches the common end-of-sentence rhyme of those stanzas
    – Yang
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 9:23

1 Answer 1


I had a second (tenth?) listen, and extracted the sound to an mp3. Then I put this through Praat. I noticed something interesting:

This is the first occurrence of 來, around 72 seconds in:


enter image description here

This is the second occurrence of 來, around 121 seconds in:



The first one is definitely [lɔi], whereas the second one is definitely [lei], and the sonogram confirms it. The second image, with the dense formation in the middle, trailing off into a lighter line is an [ei].

In this case it could be an influence from Cantonese -- Zhang is from Selangor -- where 嚟 is often pronounced lei.

Same around 2mn14 where 来 in 按好吃讲只只来帮衬 is [lei]. So it seems Zhang alternates freely loi and lei.

As for 歌 I had a look with Praat at only the first one (最近做歌星讲好难) -- it's getting late here :-) -- but this one is go1. I confirmed it by listening to it isolately, and looking at its sonogram -- it has the same profile as 近 and 讲). But listening to the full sentence it comes out a little weird, as if it were spirantized.

I'll have a deeper look tomorrow.


  • 两 should be pronounced liong according to my reference, but here it is pronounced lioeng --> Seems like it indeed As you say, probable influence of Canto.
  • 张惠妹 sounds like it's pronounced the mandarin way --> Yup.
  • 你, in its last occurrence in the last repetition of part three, sounds like it's actually a 系.

That'd be at 4:41 thereabouts.

你 at 281 secs

If you compare this sonogram with the second one, [lei], you see it's kind of similar -- the vowel is basically the same, except it doesn't weaken into [-i]. It's [e:].

Compare this with the 你 at 4:13:

你 at 253 secs

No [e:] here. That's a nice [i:], quite long too. That's quite expected as 你 is ngi2.

As for the initial. In the suspicious 你, look at the initial in the sonogram, and compare it with the sonograms of [loi] and [lei], especially the latter. You have very similar patterns, albeit weaker for 你. I believe Zhang kind of reverted to Cantonese [lei]. The [l-] is there but devoiced (the lower dark line at the beginning of [lei] is barely there). I believe it's a voiceless [l], that can be heard as a [h].


Regarding Hakka tones, I used Dr Lau's PinFaa data to build a dictionary, which I added into my own little online tool. The tone contours are from [this page]:

Hakka tone contours

  • I guess this answers "lei" and, partly, "go". COuld you add the rest of the things I noticed, maybe just copying the comments? Then I'll accept your answer. And BTW I am guessing 嚟 is a Cantonese equivalent of 来. Is that right?
    – MickG
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 17:54
  • Yes, sorry, 嚟 [lai4 lei4] is the Cantonese equivalent of 來.
    – dda
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 2:49

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