Projects

The Phonetic Cantonese Institute has several projects that are currently active. If you would like to help out, please see the contact section of this website.

1) Upload of Cantonese reading material to the cantoneselang.org website along with accompanying audio recordings to help people learn to read Chinese written characters.

This project is currently inactive.

2) Design of a Cantonese alphabet

This project has been a success. A Cantonese alphabet was created, and though it would be better if more Cantobets were created by other people, my focus now shifts towards finding people to share the vision of a phonetically written, vibrant Cantonese language.

3) Research into the Thousand Word Poem.

The goal of this project is to create and publish a high quality audio recording of a Chinese poem called the Thousand Word Poem being read in Cantonese. The Institute finds that it is of the utmost importance to read this poem in Cantonese for the following reasons:

a) The poem is over 1500 years old and is a part of classical Chinese education. Modern day pronunciations of the poem will be different from the ancient pronunciation. However, it is believed that many similarities have survived the passage of time and that Cantonese has uniquely maintained some aspects of ancient Chinese that have been lost in other dialects of Chinese. By recording the poem being read in modern Cantonese, it will allow future research to be performed into the pronunciation of ancient Chinese literature.

Time is of the essence in this project, as Cantonese is a language that contains many words that have very infrequently used alternative pronunciations that occurn in specific contexts. As time goes by, these alternative pronunciations are lost as they are so infrequently used. It is believed that these alternative pronunciations are the remnants of words from an older language. This poem contains many words that have infrequently used alternative pronunciations, and most of the younger generation will not be aware of these alternative pronunciations and their associated contexts. It is hoped that older volunteers can be found who can read some of the alternative pronunciations of these words, but these volunteers will likely be older than 80 years old and the time available for asking for their assistance is limited.

b) The poem is culturally important for Chinese people, and is an important part of world literature. It describes a way of seeing the world, starting from its creation, and encompasses various facts known at the time about science, history, and is in essence a snapshot of an older way of seeing the world. It is of great interest to historians.

c) The poem is linguistically important because it contains 1000 different words. Many dictionaries for Chinese contain 4000-5000 words. By recording the pronunciations of these words, a significant portion of the Cantonese language can be recorded.

d) There is currently no correct reading of the poem in Cantonese! Only one complete reading has been found so far, but it contains errors and does not list the source of the poem, and the poem is not read in conjunction with a high quality calligraphical rendition of the writing. Errors make it difficult for someone to learn the poem from audio alone, and low quality calligraphical or typographical renditions make it difficult for someone to understand the shape of the word being read. This project aims to resolve these issues.

I would like to obtain access to more authoritative versions of the poem, as there are stark differences between the various versions of the poem found in print. The Institute is currently looking for calligraphical renditions of the poem that predate computer typography as well as older woodblock type printings of the poem.

Status of current research:

This project is inactive.

4) Creating an online learner’s dictionary for Cantonese

The Institute is currently planning the creation of a Cantonese-English and English-Cantonese online dictionary aimed at a wide range of users. It will contain words that are missing in other dictionaries because they are deemed to be too informal.

This project is inactive.

5) Collecting and analyzing word and sound frequency distributions for the type of Cantonese used in Canada

The Institute notes that collecting data on word frequencies found in print and sound frequencies in Cantonese speech in Canada are crucial to the creation of a well-designed and practical writing system for Cantonese that will work for Chinese-Canadians. Volunteer labour is needed to help make this data collection a reality.

This project is inactive.

6) Updating the cantoneselang.org website to include information about Cantonese, links, helpful information, essays. Work also needs to be done to enable tracking of web traffic to measure the number of people using this site.

This project is inactive.

7) Researching how to use older Cantonese pronunciation dictionaries and making this information accessible to a wider range of people.

There are mnemonic rules to using older Cantonese pronunciation dictionaries that govern the pronunciation of certain types of words. While these pronunciation rules were commonly known in the past, most people who are still knowledgable of these pronunciation mnemonics are in their 80s, and this critical knowledge is at risk of being lost. The Phonetic Cantonese Language Institute is looking for volunteers who can find and interview the people who are knowledgeable of the mnemonic rules for Cantonese pronunciation dictionaries.

This project is inactive

8)Look at existing free and open source Cantonese dictionaries and determine the quality of it.

This project is inactive.

9)Promote the use of the Cantobet

This project is active.