Cantonese, or Standard Cantonese, is a variety of Chinese spoken in the city of Guangzhou in southeastern China. It is the prestige variety of Yue, one of the major subdivisions of Chinese. In mainland China, it is the lingua franca of the province of Guangdong and some neighbouring areas such as Guangxi. In Hong Kong and Macau, Cantonese serves as one of their official languages and it is also spoken amongst overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and throughout the Western World. When Cantonese and the closely related Yuehai dialects are classified together, Cantonese is viewed as vital part of the cultural identity for its native speakers across large swathes of southeastern China, Hong Kong and Macau. Although Cantonese shares some vocabulary with Mandarin, the two varieties are mutually unintelligible because of differences in pronunciation, grammar and lexicon, sentence structure, in particular the placement of verbs, sometimes differs between the two varieties. This results in the situation in which a Cantonese and a Mandarin text may look similar, in English, the term Cantonese is ambiguous. Cantonese proper is the variety native to the city of Canton and this narrow sense may be specified as Canton language or Guangzhou language in English. However, Cantonese may also refer to the branch of Cantonese that contains Cantonese proper as well as Taishanese and Gaoyang. In this article, Cantonese is used for Cantonese proper, historically, speakers called this variety Canton speech or Guangzhou speech, although this term is now seldom used outside mainland China. In Guangdong province, people call it provincial capital speech or plain speech. In Hong Kong and Macau, as well as among overseas Chinese communities, in mainland China, the term Guangdong speech is also increasingly being used among both native and non-native speakers. Due to its status as a prestige dialect among all the dialects of the Cantonese or Yue branch of Chinese varieties, the official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese and English, as defined in the Hong Kong Basic Law. The Chinese language has different varieties, of which Cantonese is one. Given the traditional predominance of Cantonese within Hong Kong, it is the de facto official spoken form of the Chinese language used in the Hong Kong Government and all courts and it is also used as the medium of instruction in schools, alongside English. A similar situation exists in neighboring Macau, where Chinese is an official language along with Portuguese. As in Hong Kong, Cantonese is the predominant spoken variety of Chinese used in life and is thus the official form of Chinese used in the government. The variant spoken in Hong Kong and Macau is known as Hong Kong Cantonese, Cantonese first developed around the port city of Guangzhou in the Pearl River Delta region of southeastern China
Street in Chinatown, San Francisco. Cantonese has traditionally been the dominant Chinese variant among Chinese populations in the Western world.
Chinese dictionary from the Tang dynasty. Modern Cantonese pronunciation preserves almost all terminal consonants (-m -n -ng, -p -t -k) from Middle Chinese.