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?


4 Responses to Syllables Starting With Vowels

  1. Dana says:

    I don’t know toisan, but one thing similar in cantonese is how the initial consanants are sometimes pronounced differently by different people (but they often don’t hear the difference). An example is my cantonese teacher pronounces keui (he/she/it) as heui. My in-laws don’t pronounce it this way, so at first I found it annoying, but I grew to accept it (and pronounce it this way when talking to her but not others). It makes me think that for native ears the main thing they are listening to is the vowel and tone of the words along with the context.

    • Ben says:

      Yes, I guess that is sort of similar. I always think of that as more of an accent thing though. Similar to how different variations of English have different pronunciations on words ending in r, or breaking mutli-syllable words up differently. Or, maybe it is more similar to contractions or slurring of words – how “what is up” can be contracted to “what’s up”, and then can be slurred to “whassup”. Perhaps native speakers “don’t notice” because they are very familiar with all the possible pronunciations?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Please make more YouTube videos. There are not enough Toisanese lessons there T_T

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