Written Chinese/Cantonese pronunciation

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The Cantonese characters pronunciation consists of three elements: syllable onset(聲母), syllable nucleus(韻母) and tone(聲調). A character consists of syllable onset(though some rare characters does not have this element), following by a syllable nucleus, with a tone for each character.

The concept of syllable onset and syllable nucleus can be explained by examing the english word "sing". When you pronounce this word, try to divide it to "s-" and "-ing". Note that the "s-" determines the shape of your mouth, and the "-ing" is the actual voiced part. That's the concept of syllable onset and syllable nucleus respectively. The tone is a special feature in Chinese language. There is a total of nine tones, and each character belongs to one of them. Note that there is no concept of stress in Chinese words - each word has only one syllable.

Syllable onsets[edit]

There are totally 19 syllable onsets in Cantonese. The following table shows their pronunciation guide:

Syllable onsetSimilar English pronunciationNotes
bb in boy
pp in paper
mm in mother
ff in father
dd in dog
tt in talk
nn in no
ll in love
gg in get
kk in keep
ng---To pronounce "ng", first adjust everything in your mouth (tongue, shape of lips, etc) to the position as you would when pronouncing "g" and "k", now the way to say is same as those except that you are using your nose to voice it. (Voice files will be added later)
hh in hello
gw---Pronunciation similar to "g", but start with round-shaped lips, gradually forming the lip shape as your are pronouncing the English letter "a". Try to think it as a "go-a(the a in bar)" pronounced together as a single syllable.
kwqu in quietSame as above, but similar to "k".
z---The sound of "z" is similar to the English letter "j", but the difference is like "z" and "zh". First the tip of your tongue should be touching your lower incisors, and while pronouncing, gradually move your tongue to your palate. (Voice files will be added later)
ts---Same as "z", but air should be agitated from your mouth.
ss in song
j(similar to the Spanish "j")y in you
ww in was