Difference between Mandarin and Cantonese (With Table)

There are many different languages spoken all over the world. Some have similarities while others are completely different.

Mandarin and Cantonese are some of the languages that have been confused as one on many occasions. They are both spoken languages of the Sinitic linguistic family.

The two languages shared the same writing system up to 1956. Both are tonal languages although the tones are different and are not mutually intelligible.

So, what is the main difference between Mandarin and Cantonese? Mandarin is spoken in mainland China and Taiwan while Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, and Southern parts of China in that vicinity.

For more information about the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese in tabular form, continue reading the article. You will also get to learn of the similarities between the two.

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Comparison Table (Mandarin vs Cantonese)

Basic TermsMandarinCantonese
Where spokenIt is spoken in mainland China and Taiwan.It is spoken in Hong Kong, Macau. Guangzhou and southern parts of China.
WrittenIt is written using simplified characters as set by the Chinese government in the 1950s.It is written traditionally in that it has many strokes.
SpokenThey use a standardized version.They use the traditional version.
TonesIt has five different tones and one neutral tone. It has nine tones including historical tones.
Grammatical structureIt changes structure based on the emotional meaning and subject.It follows a logical set of patterns.
Where usedIt is used in businesses, government activities and taught in school as a second language.It is used in Hong Kong.

What is Mandarin?

Mandarin is the Chinese language that is a collection of Chinese dialects. It is mainly found in Northern China but of late, due to migration, it has also spread to southwestern provinces.

It has had an influence on the linguistic battle for dominance. Early 20th century, it was adopted to be an official language of mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore.

The language is being used officially in businesses, government and also being taught as a second language in schools.

As the language is an official language, there are many regions and communities around the world speaking the language.

It uses a standardized version of mandarin. It has five different tones and one neutral tone. They include; high flat tone, rising tone, falling-rising tone, falling tone, and neutral tone.

It changes its grammatical structures based on the emotional meaning and the subject. This makes the native speakers only to be able to understand the language.

What is Cantonese?

Cantonese is a form of the Chinese language spoken in Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, and southern parts of China.

Cantonese is still written in a tradition where it is written with a lot of strokes. Cantonese still pronounce words in the traditional way as compared to mandarin.

It has six tones and three historical tones hence the total number of tones comes to nine. They include; high flat tone, mid rising tone, mid flat tone, low falling tone, low rising tone, low flat tone.

It may be easier to learn and understand Cantonese as it follows a logical set of patterns. The language is mostly used in Hong Kong.

Cantonese is not an official language hence it is not used in official matters such as education, government issues, and businesses.

Main Difference between Mandarin and Cantonese

  1. Mandarin is spoken in Mainland China and Taiwan while Cantonese is spoken in Macau, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Southern parts of China.
  2. Mandarin has five tones while Cantonese has nine tones including three historical tones.
  3. Mandarin uses a standardized version while Cantonese uses a traditional version.
  4. Mandarin is written using simplified characters while Cantonese is written in the traditional way where it has many strokes.
  5. Mandarin changes structure based on the emotional meaning and subject while Cantonese uses a logical set of patterns.
  6. Mandarin is used in businesses, government and taught in schools as a second language while Cantonese is mainly used in Hong Kong.

Similarities between Mandarin and Cantonese

  1. Both are forms of the Chinese language.
  2. Both have the same roots as written characters with Mandarin.
  3. Both are tonal languages.
  4. Both are spoken languages of the Sinitic linguistic family.
  5. Both are mutually unintelligible.

Conclusion

Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken languages of the Sinitic linguistic family. They are both Chinese language which shares various characteristics such as writing, tones, and grammatical structures.

However, the two are totally different from each other in various forms. The main difference between Mandarin and Cantonese is that Mandarin has been made the official language and is used in businesses, government and taught in schools as a second language while Cantonese is mainly spoken in Hong Kong.

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