Ruby phonetic annotation for Cantonese

« previous post | next post »

Jenny Chu sent in this photograph of an ad on a Hong Kong subway car:

It says:

jau5 💡 zau6 lai4 laa1
("if you have [a bright idea], just come [here]")


Normally, if you regard the two characters "zau6 lai4 就嚟" as one term, it is an adverb meaning "almost; soon", as defined in this online dictionary of Cantonese.  In this sentence, however, the first of these two syllables / words is an adverb conveying imminence and the second is a verb meaning "come". The modal particle / discourse marker "laa1" at the end is for emphasis.

All that is fun, and it is great to see real written Cantonese in action in a public place, but the most wonderful thing about this advertisement is that it has ruby Jyutping phonetic annotations for each character.  Praise be to those responsible for printing them on this clever poster.  As Jenny Chu said in her covering note:  "Wouldn't it be nice if all government ads included it just as this one from CIBS / RTHK* DOES!"

[*Community Involvement Broadcasting Service (CIBS), Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK)]

In my estimation, it would be hugely beneficial if Jyutping phonetic annotations were massively supplied in all sorts of settings, not just in Hong Kong, but in all Cantonese speaking areas of the world, until everyone who cares about learning, preserving, and using the written and spoken language became familiar with the pronunciation and spelling of Cantonese sounds.


"Phonetic annotations as a welcome aid for learning how to read and write Sinographs" (4/26/19) — with dozens of additional posts on the value of phonetic annotation listed in the "Readings" section at the end

"Cantonese as a Second Language" (4/22/19) — with more than two dozen additional items on the importance of Cantonese language listed in the "Readings" and "Books" sections at the end

[Thanks to Bob Bauer, Abraham Chan, and Zeyao Wu]

1 Comment

  1. Sai Law said,

    May 8, 2019 @ 11:20 pm

    So, the ad translates to: ' If you have a light bulb moment, just come hither!'? I googled jyutping the last time I asked you about it (a while back) and found it's not too different from Yale, except for one or two tones. I have read your championing for tones before and can't agree with you more that it would be a very good idea to always have a phonetic system beside Cantonese words to help with their pronunciation.

RSS feed for comments on this post