Teach Yourself Japanese
Subject: Re: Mandarin and Cantonese
From: TAKASUGI Shinji (tssf.airnet.ne.jp)
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2004 19:06:40 GMT
> I was wondering which of the two languages, Mandarin (Putonghua) and Cantonese (Guangdonghua), actually comes from ancient Chinese?
As far as I know, Cantonese is not the one. It still contains underlying Daic vocabulary because southern Chinese people didn't speak Chinese and adopted it as civilized language later, like Japanese did. Similarly, most northern Chinese people are descendants of Altaic conquerers and Mandarin is strongly influenced by Altaic languages grammatically and phonetically. The historical change from ancient Chinese to Mandarin is traceable, however.
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Chinese and Japanese
As I have written in the upper article, Cantonese preserves ancient Chinese vocabulary much better than Mandarin does, and it also preserves codas (syllable-final consonants) well, but these facts don't mean it comes directly from ancient Chinese.
The oldest Chinese language seems purely head-first. Compare the legendary king 帝堯 (title + name, head-first) and Hàn's 武帝 (name + title, head-last), for example. This difference is still observed in Cantonese and Mandarin, such as 鷄公 and 人客 (head-first) in Cantonese and 公鷄 and 客人 (head-last) in Mandarin.
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