Syllables Starting With Vowels

Focusing more heavily on Hoisanwa lately, I’ve been having trouble distinguishing word boundaries. Maybe it is just a lack of practice, or because I still haven’t made much progress in the lessons. But I have another theory related to the differences between Cantonese and Hoisanwa, specifically syllables starting with vowels.

In Cantonese all syllables start with consonants. I think after 4 years of learning Cantonese, I have subconsciously been conditioned to only hear syllable boundaries when the syllable starts with a consonant.

The only exception to that are a few words that could just as easily start with “ng”, and the “ng” is left off, such as:
歐 au1
我 o23
屋 uk55

To my knowledge, the vowels “e”, “eu”, “i” never begin a syllable in Cantonese.

But in Hoisanwa, syllables can start with any of the vowels. A lot of the syllables that start with a “d” in Cantonese drop that “d” when spoken in Hoisanwa:
dak55 | aak52 | 得
dei11 | i52 | 地
deui33 | ooi33 | 對
dung55 | ung52 | 東
duk11 | uk52 | 讀

NOTE: I think I got some of those Hoisanwa tones wrong, and too tired at the moment to look them up, but you get the idea …

I’m not sure if I really had a point, except that there is a lot more variety to the syllable boundaries in Hoisanwa than in Cantonese. And I think that’s possibly why I’ve had trouble noticing the start of a new syllable sometimes? Any one else feel similarly?

P/T/K Endings and Tones

Most learners are taught that Cantonese has 6 tones:
high-level, mid-rising, mid-level, low-falling, low-rising, low-level

In Cantonese, any syllables ending in p/t/k will always be a level pitch countour.
high-level: 執笠、不、北
mid-level: 鴨、押、百
low-level: 習、沒、樂

The only exception is one of those syllables undergoing tone change to mid-rising, for example as the second syllable in a word.

When some people count the # of tones, they only account for the pitch contours, so 6 tones in Cantonese. The more Chinese way of thinking of tones is to consider p/t/k syllable endings as a separate tone from those other syllables that have the same pitch contour but do not end in p/t/k.

Since Cantonese only has p/t/k syllables in the 3 level contours, they will say that Cantonese has 9 tones.

However, the main point of this post is that in Hoisanwa – although I still haven’t made much progress – I did notice that the “you plural” syllable is “niak” with a high-falling tone. I wonder how many tones there are in Hoisanwa then, if counting syllables ending in p/t/k as a separate syllable?

And I vaguely remember learning somewhere that syllables ending in p/t/k can only ever be level tones … but I guess that must have been a Cantonese-specific rule?

Podcast Recommendations

I’m really trying to focus on listening comprehension, so I recently started getting more and more podcasts off itunes. I currently have 4.5 days (108 hours) of unlistened podcasts.

There were others that I tried out, but I don’t remember their names.  Most of them spent too much time talking in Mandarin, or the audio quality was poor.  Here are the ones I’ve been listening to and watching:

SBS Cantonese – this I mostly play in the background. I only actively listen to the cooking shows or children’s stories
動漫廢物 – this one I only recently discovered, but they seem very animated so it holds my interest. Every episode is 30+ minutes.
香港電台:一潮天子 – these are all about 5 to 10 minutes. They remind of Loveline
香港電台:人民人情 – although these are 2 minutes, the first 45 seconds is wasted on the introduction.  The rest is still useful since they are trying to introduce vocabulary words and they explain a little bit about the topic
香港電台:空中結緣 – seem to be a collection of stories, and there are a lot of them, and they are each 55 minutes long, so lots of material that is easy to understand

香港電台:HONG KONG.300 – short technology-related videos
香港電台:天下父母經-牛爸爸講古 – some quick children’s cartoons
香港電台:有房出租 – a new TV show that focuses on a house full of renters, I found it somewhat funny but I didn’t understand everything that was going on

Beyond – Spoken Cantonese Songs?

The few Beyond songs I had heard before were pure formal Cantonese. This is the first time I’ve seen one with spoken Cantonese:

Please leave comments if you know of other songs from Beyond that include colloquial Cantonese.

Trying to Explain 台山話 Using 廣東話

I’m not completely happy with my pronunciation in this one, but I will use the excuses that I was tired, I was having trouble thinking in 3 languages at once, and that I haven’t practiced Toishanese/Hoisanwa/台山話 in a long time.  Also the content; I had planned to give a lot more examples but I suddenly forgot them when I started filming.

I think I’ll keep making these, and hopefully my explanations get more clear with more practice.

new post coming soon

I’ve been meaning to put up a new video in Cantonese, but I’ve just been finding too many excuses not to get around to it.  Hopefully this post will help me feel more committed to making a real post this week.

Better WordPress Theme?

I’ve been trying to find a good wordpress theme.  What I really want is:

  • content to stretch out across whole screen, instead of just using about a third of the screen
  • tables to not overlap with the sidebar (this happened when the sidebar was on the right)
  • good table formatting (in some themes, the tables for my transcripts are just text with spacing between them, instead of actual tables)
  • ability to use tag cloud (some themes don’t have this)
  • ability to have custom pages (some themes don’t have this)

Sometimes in the “preview” mode of the theme it will look like the post will use up the whole screen, but then once I activate that theme, the actual blog shows a really narrow content area.

So does anyone know a good wordpress theme to use?  Thanks in advance!

Slang and Idioms – X咁Y and X到Y

I had really thought I would be able to write these short idiom posts every few days, but then things got busy and I let time get away from me.  So I guess this one is long overdue, and I’ll make it twice as long.

Read more of this post

Flashcard Setup

My previous post was vague on how exactly I build my flashcards, and the following comment was left by darren:

I’ve used anki for awhile but i’m still not sure how people are tracking the number or words they know…do you have a deck just of words vs sentences vs mixed that you review to pull the stats? Does the number of vocab include characters and compounds or do you break that out at all? Would be really useful to know how you pull those stats out of anki to show progress etc.

Read more of this post

Vocabulary Progress

As many others have said, increasing vocabulary is probably the most important step towards fluency.  Maybe that’s not true for everyone, but I don’t think I really felt comfortable having conversations until I had around 4,000 words in my passive vocabulary.  I still need to move more of those over to my active vocabulary, but that is part of the reason I started this blog (to improve my speaking practice, which I really ought to do more of sometime soon…).

The journey to increase vocabulary is a long, slow, frustrating journey.  So I thought I could share my progress here.  I know it’s easy to feel like you are learning very little.  But when you look back, you’ll see you’ve come a long way.

Read more of this post


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.