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Hong Kong Government Cantonese Romanisation

Hong Kong Government Cantonese RomanisationDescription : The Hong Kong Government Cantonese Romanisation (not an official name) is the more or less consistent way for romanising Cantonese proper nouns employed by the Hong Kong Government departments and many non-governmental organisations in Hong Kong. It is not known whether there are strict guidelines for the method circulating in the government, or the method has just established itself and become a common practice over time. The system has been widely used by the Hong Kong Government from the v... Page:h130

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This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.
Romanisation is not always consistent. In this example, note the two spellings (shue/shuo) of the character shue (樹).

The Hong Kong Government Cantonese Romanisation (not an official name) is the more or less consistent way for romanising Cantonese proper nouns employed by the Hong Kong Government departments and many non-governmental organisations in Hong Kong. It is not known whether there are strict guidelines for the method circulating in the government, or the method has just established itself and become a common practice over time. The system has been widely used by the Hong Kong Government from the very early days of British rule, and has since gone through some changes between the two World Wars.

The convention is similar to the one devised by Ernst Johann Eitel, which is likely German-based.

Since the method is not standardised, Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau has approved a Cantonese Pinyin system for teachers in primary and secondary schools. Besides this, the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong promotes their own Jyutping system. Both schemes are employed by the government to illustrate accurate pronunciation of Cantonese words.

This article illustrates and explains how the proper nouns in Hong Kong are transcribed and romanised, and lists the corresponding pronunciations of the spellings with respect to IPA and Jyutping.

Usage

The Hong Kong Government adopts the Eitel/Dyer-Ball system of romanisation, which is based on the spoken Cantonese language. It was first adopted in 1960 to standardise the romanisation of placenames throughout Hong Kong (the standardised placenames were published in the 1960 government publication 'A Gazetteer of Place Names in Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories'. Prior to this 1960 publication, there was no standard, consistent way of romanising placenames in the territory, which, predictably, often led to confusion. Since then, the romanisation system has been extended to the names of local Chinese, which gives romanised Hong Kong Chinese names a distinctive character.

For place names, the type of the place in English (e.g., "Street" and "Road") are often used instead of a romanisation (which would have been "Kai" and "Lo" in the previous example), with just a handful of rare exceptions (for example, the "Fong" in "Lan Kwai Fong", which would have been a "Square" if a translation were used). "Wan" and "Bay", "Tsuen" (or "Chuen") and "Estate" (or "Village"), are, however, equally common. Some places, such as "Un Long", was later renamed as "Yuen Long" according to this standard, with the exception "Un Chau Estate" / "Un Chau Street Estate". Nonetheless, the names "Hong Kong" and "Kowloon" are not transliterated based on this system, as they were already named as such prior to the founding of the colony.

When the romanisations are spoken in an English conversation, they are pronounced in a somewhat anglicised manner. All words are consistently pronounced in tone equivalent to the Yin Ping tone or tone 1. A good everyday example is the broadcast of station names on MTR trains.

Some instant messaging users, having problems typing in Chinese characters, model this rule of romanisation for communication, but they use voiced instead of voiceless unaspirated consonants, such as using 'b', 'd' or 'g' where this system may have used 'p', 't' or 'k'.

Spelling

It is not a fully standardised system, and many of the phonemes correspond to more than one letter combination or the other way round. All tones are omitted as are distinctions between aspirated and unaspirated stops. The distinctions between the long vowel [a] and the short vowel [ɐ] are omitted like Fat (發, [fat]) and Fat (佛, [fɐt]).

Some of the inconsistencies are due to a distinction that has been lost historically (a distinction between palatal and alveolar sounds, viz. ch versus ts, sh versus s, and j versus z). These consonants are no longer distinguished in present-day speech.

Under the following table, geographical names are used to illustrate. (Biographical names are not used as people have the right to decide how their names be romanised, although the same rule usually applies.)

Consonants

Initials

IPAJyutpingEitel/Dyer-BallExamplein Chinese
ppSai Ying Pun西營盤
pbpPo Lam寶琳
ttTuen Mun屯門
tdtTai O大澳
kkKai Tak啟德
kgkTai Kok Tsui大角嘴
kʷʰkwkwKwai Chung葵涌
gwkwCha Kwo Ling茶果嶺
mmmYau Ma Te油麻地
nnnNam Cheong南昌
ŋngngNgau Tau Kok牛頭角
lllLam Tin藍田
fffFo Tan火炭
sssSo Kon Po掃捍埔
shShau Kei Wan筲箕灣
hhhHang Hau坑口
jjyYau Tong油塘
wwwWong Tai Sin黃大仙
tsʰcchHeng Fa Chuen杏花邨
tsYau Yat Tsuen又一村
tsztsTsim Sha Tsui尖沙嘴

Finals

IPAJyutpingEitel/Dyer-BallExamplein Chinese
-p-p-pAp Lei Chau鴨脷洲
-t-t-tTsat Tsz Mui七姊妹
-k-k-kShek O石澳
-m-m-mSham Shui Po深水埗
-n-n-nTsuen Wan荃灣
-ng-ngTsing Yi青衣

Vowels, diphthongs, and syllabic consonants

IPAJyutpingEitel/Dyer-BallExamplein Chinese
aaaMa Tau Wai馬頭圍
ahWah Fu Estate華富邨
ɐaaTsz Wan Shan慈雲山
oHung Hom紅磡
uSham Chun River深圳河
ɛː/eeeChe Kung Miu車公廟
iː/ɪiiLai Chi Kok荔枝角
zeSheung Sze Wan相思灣
zTung Tsz洞梓
eeTat Chee Avenue達之路
ɔː/oooWo Che禾輋
uː/ʊuuKwu Tung古洞
ooMei Foo美孚
œːoeeuSheung Wan上環
eoNam Cheong Street南昌街
ɵeouShun Lee Estate順利邨
yuyuYu Chau Street汝州街
uKau U Fong九如坊
ueYung Shue Wan榕樹灣
aːiaaiaiChai Wan柴灣
ɐiaiaiMai Po米埔
aːuaauauShau Kei Wan筲箕灣
ɐuauauSau Mau Ping秀茂坪
eieieiLei Yue Mun鯉魚門
eeLee On利安
ayKam Hay Court錦禧苑
aiShui Hau Sai Ngan Ma水口四眼馬
iTo Li Terrace桃李台
iːuiuiuSiu Sai Wan小西灣
ɔːioioiChoi Hung Estate彩虹邨
oyChoy Yee Bridge蔡意橋
uːiuiuiPui O貝澳
ɵyeoiuiMa Liu Shui馬料水
ououoTai Mo Shan大帽山
m
ŋ̩ngngNg Fan Chau五分州
  • ^ The standard pronunciation of 五 is [ŋ̩]. However, a more common pronunciation in Hong Kong is [m̩] and many [ŋ̩] words are merging with it. The only word that was originally pronounced as m̩ is "唔 (not)", and it is not used in place names.

Pronunciation in English

The romanised words are normally pronounced in a somewhat anglicised way, with the following characteristics which are different from what the above discussion on spelling might indicate:

Initial consonants

  • The letters p, t, k, plus the combinations kw and ts, are normally aspirated as per English; some English speakers in Hong Kong (including radio announcers) may choose to pronounce them unaspirated if the original Cantonese sounds are known to be unaspirated.
  • The sound ng is pronounced as in Cantonese; however, because initial /ŋ/ does not occur in English, English speakers usually have difficulty with them. (It is possible for it to be mispronounced /n/.)
  • The sound sh is pronounced as English sh (IPA: /ʃ/), despite such a sound being absent from Cantonese.
  • The sound ts is to be pronounced as English ts (German z), but in practice might be pronounced as English ch (IPA: /tʃ/); however, because this sound does not normally occur at the initial position in English, English speakers will have difficulty pronouncing the sound. In Canada, ts is usually mispronounced as a simple /s/ or /z/ even among the Chinese.

Final consonants

  • The letters p, t, k are pronounced as in English.

Vowels, diphthongs, and consonants

  • The letter a is to be pronounced [a] or [ɐ]; however, English speakers pronounce it [ɑː] at the end, and [æ] before consonant.
  • The digraph ai is to be pronounced [ai] or [ɐi]; however, English speakers not familiar with the romanisation may pronounce it differently according to English pronunciation rules, [eɪ].
  • The digraph au is to be pronounced [au] or [ɐu]; however, English speakers not familiar with the romanisation may pronounce it differently according to English pronunciation rules, [ɔː].
  • The letter i is to be pronounced [i], but [ɪ] before k and ng; before a p, t, m and n, English speakers not familiar with the romanisation may pronounce it as [ɪ] as in English.
  • The digraph ei is to be pronounced [ei]; however, English speakers not familiar with the romanisation may pronounce it [aɪ].
  • The digraph ou is to be pronounced [ou]; however, English speakers not familiar with the romanisation may pronounce it [aʊ] or [uː].
  • The digraph iu is to be pronounced [iu]; however, this sound does not exist in English. English speakers mispronounce [juː].
  • The letter u is to be pronounced [u], but [ʊ] before k and ng; before a consonant, English speakers not familiar with the romanisation may pronounce it as [ɐ] as in English.
  • The digraph eu is to be pronounced [œ]; however, this sound does not exist in English. English speakers mispronounce [juː] or [uː].
  • The letter u (when after y) or the digraph ue is pronounced [y] as in Cantonese (it's pronounced from lip-rounded /i/); however, this sound does not exist in English. English speakers mispronounce [juː] or [uː].
  • The diphthong ui is to be pronounced a diphthong [ɵy] (e.g., similar to the diphthong denoted by öy in Finnish or ui in Dutch), but [ui] before b, p, m, f, w; however, these sounds do not exist in English. English speakers mispronounce as a succession of two vowels [uː.i].
  • The syllabic consonant m and ng are pronounced [m̩] and [ŋ̩] The sound [ŋ̩] do not exist in English. Many Hong Kong locals do not distinguish [m̩] and [ŋ̩]. This results in a phonological shift in Hong Kong Cantonese that sees a merge of [ŋ̩] into [m̩]. In fact, the tone is the only way to distinguish the surnames 伍 [ŋ̩˨˧] and 吳 [ŋ̩˩], but both are written "Ng", and appear as "Wu" in Mandarin. Note that the standard pronunciation of 伍 is [ŋ̩˨˧] with a rising tone, but 吳 is pronounced [ŋ̩˩] with a low tone. In North America, as a single [ŋ] does not exist in English, ng is usual pronounced as [ɪŋ].
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