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Cantonese Romanization

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Penkyamp (拼音 in Jyutping[?]: ping1 jam1) or Cantonese pinyin, is a transliteration system for writing Cantonese Chinese with the Latin alphabet. This system of Cantonese Romanization serves as the standard in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver and San Francisco. On the other hand, the Linguistic Society Hong Kong adopts another Cantonese Romanization called Jyutping[?] (sometimes spelled Jyutpin) (粵拼), that is used in some recently published Cantonese-English or English-Cantonese dictionaries.

The two systems are improvements from previous systems. The features of Penkyamp includes:

  • reflects the vowel system of Cantonese more systematically than Jyutping by recognizing all long-short vowel contrasts,
    • whereas Jyutping only recognizes short a and long a.
  • indicates long and short vowels using the unique orthographic feature of altering the ending consonant of the shengmu[?].
  • does not have the ambiguous distinction between "oe" and "eu" (as in Jyutping).
  • treats the two (not three) front-round vowels using the same silent vowel letter "e", placed before the substantial vowel
  • categorizes the other front-round vowel (an underdeveloped one) as a short "o".
  • does not use the consonant "j", which is used in traditional Cantonese anglicization as "z" instead of "y" (as in Jyutping).

In terms of practicality and visual esthetics Jyutping is not a clumsy or ugly system.

Drawing a parallel between Cantonese and Japanese, Penkyamp is analogous to the Nihon system, whereas Jyutping to the Hepburn system.

The following descriptions applies to Penkyamp.

Table of contents


A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P (q) S T U W Y Z

Shengmus[?] (Consonants aided by International Phonetic Alphabets. In order to see proper display of IPA, you must download a Unicode font)

  • B [p] unaspirated
  • C [ts'] aspirated
  • D [t] un...
  • F [f]
  • G [k] un...
  • H [h]
  • K [k'] asp...
  • L [l]
  • M [m]
  • N [n]
  • P [p'] asp...
  • S [s]
  • T [t'] asp...
  • W [w]
  • Y [j]
  • Z [ts] un...

Special Attention

  • C is [ts'] as "tz" in Politzer.
  • Z [tz] is the unaspirated form of C.
  • q is a glottal stop, Arabic "hamsa", as it appears in Cantonese interjection lâq, which is interchangeable with lâg.



  • long: A E I O U Eo Eu
  • short: Ah Eh Oh
  • diphthongs1: Ai Oi Ui Au Iu Ay Ey Oy Aw Ow
  • diphthongs2: single vowels and diphthongs1 preceded by semi-vowel u, such as uay as in guây (expensive)

Yunmus aided by International Phonetic Symbols


  • A [a] ("a" alone or followed by "g", "b", "d", "ng", "m", "n", "i", "u")
  • E [ɛ] open-mid front unrounded
  • I [i]
  • O [ɔ]open-mid back rounded
  • U [u]
  • Eo [ɶ] open-mid front rounded
  • Eu [y]


  • Ah [ɠ]open-mid back unrounded ("a" followed by "h", "k", "p", "t", "nk", "mp", "nt", "y", "w")
  • Eh [e] close-mid front unrounded ("e" followed by above)
  • Oh [o] close-mid back rounded ("o" followed by above)


  • Ai [ai]
  • Oi [ɔy]
  • Ui [uy]
  • Au [au]
  • Iu [iw]
  • Ay [ɠj]
  • Ey [ej]
  • Oy [y] ( is mid-close front rounded)
  • Aw [ɠu]
  • Ow [ow]

Short vowels are those in short yunmus, and long vowels in long yunmus. All short vowels are pronounced with tighter, smaller enclosure of lips than are their long counterparts.

Orthography Long yunmus followed by consonants:

  • Ru:
    • Ab Ad Ag
  • Ping/shang/qu:
    • Am An Ang
    • Eg Eng
    • Ib Id Im In
    • Od Og On Ong
    • Ud Un

Short yunmus followed by consonants:

  • Ru:
    • Ap At Ak
  • P/S/Q:
    • Amp Ant Ank
    • Ek Enk
    • Ot Ok Ont Onk


  1. Yin1Ping2 or high Yin1Ru4 (Yamp1Penk4 cum high Yamp1Yap6): a1, ä (umlaut)
  2. Yin1Shang3(Yamp1Seong5): a2, ã (tilde)
  3. Yin1Qu4 or low Yin1Ru4 (Yamp1Hoy3 cum low Yamp1Yap6): a3, â (circumflex)
  4. Yang2Ping2(Yeong4Penk4): a4, a (plain)
  5. Yang2Shang3(Yeong4Seong5): a5, á (acute)
  6. Yang2Qu4(Yeong4Hoy3): a6, à (grave)

6 tones represented by numerical scales of pitch, "1" being the lowest, "6" the highest"

  • First: "Zäw" tone, scale= 66
  • Second: "Hãw" tone, scale= 35
  • Third: "Dîm" tone, scale= 44
  • Fourth: "Ho" tone, scale= 11
  • Fifth: "Mów", scale=24
  • Sixth: "Dòw", scale=22

Either the tone numbers 1-6 or the diacritic marks may be used

  • note: a shortcut for memorizing all 6 of them is a couplet:
Zaw1 Haw2 Dim3, Ho4 Mow2 Dow6
Zhou1 Kou3 Dian4, He2 Mu3 Du4 (Mandarin)
(周口店, 河姆渡)

Zhoukoudian is an archeological site near Beijing containing a 500,000 year old Homo Erectus habitat; Hemudu is a Zhejiang archeological site of Neolithic human activities

Sample Text sample in the Standard Cantonese Penk3yamp1 (simplified chinese text are place holders for now):

trad.[?] simp. pinyin Penkyamp meaning
北京 北京 Bei3 jing1 Bak1 genk1 Beijing
Hua1 Fa1 flower
Xie3 Se3 write
Zi4 Zi6 chinese character
Wo3 Ngo5 I, me
Hu2 Wu4 lake
Xue1 Heo1 boot
Zhu4 Ceu5 pillar
t s ba4 lah1 one of the interjections at the end of a sentence
Huai4 Wai6 bad
Wai4 Ngoi6 outside
Bei4 Bui3 back
Jiao1 Gau3 teach
Yao1 Yiu1 waist
Fei4 Fay3 lung
Di4 Dey6 ground
t s Zhui1 Zoy1 persue
Gou3 Gaw2 dog
Lu4 Low6 road
Ya1 Ngab3 duck
Sha1 Sad3 kill
Bai3 Bag3 hundred
San1 Sam1 three
Man4 Man6 slow
Xing2 Hang4 walk
Ju4 Keg6 drama
Jing4 Geng3 mirror
Ye4 Yib6 page
Re4 Yid6 hot
Jian4 Gim3 sword
Xian4 Sin3 thread
Ke3 Hod3 thirst
Guo2 Guog3 state,nation
An4 Ngon6 shore
Bang1 Bong1 help
Huo2 Wud6 to live
Huan4 Wun6 exchange, replace
Ji2 Gap1 hasty
Shi1 Sat1 lost
De2 Dak1 gain
Xin1 Samp1 heart
Xin1 Sant1 new
Sheng1 Sank1 student
Shi2 Sek6 to eat
Jing1 Zenk1 essence
Chu1 Cot1 outside
Ku1 Hok1 to cry, weep
Xin4 Sont3 to trust
Zhong1 Zonk1 middle

External Links

  • Jyutping scheme (http://www.hku.hk/linguist/lshk/Jyutping/scheme)
  • Jyutping (http://www.chinalanguage.com/CCDICT/Support/jyutpin.php)

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