嗎 vs 呀

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Balltongue
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嗎 vs 呀

Postby Balltongue » Fri May 11, 2018 4:09 am

What's the tradicional caracther they use in 廣東話 for questions?
嗎?
呀?
Thanks in advance.
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西(n)・英(c)
伊m1m2d.pi4pii1piv3
和m1m2d.pi?
仏m1d.pi4・独m1d.pi3
マpi2・カpi2
ポm1d.pi7・コm1d・ラm

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Re: 嗎 vs 呀

Postby tarvos » Fri May 11, 2018 7:33 am

The first one. The second one is more of an exclamation particle that you find at the end of sentences.
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Re: 嗎 vs 呀

Postby smallwhite » Fri May 11, 2018 7:53 am

Native speaker here. Both, and there are more.
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Re: 嗎 vs 呀

Postby Balltongue » Thu May 17, 2018 6:33 pm

So, as an example I have two sentences that I'm really proud to know how to type quickly on the handwritting touchpad:

嗎・你好嗎?

呀・你識唔識聽呀?

SmallWhite, would you please help us with one more particle and a sentence as an example? Or... it could be a website with some cantonese basic grammar as well. Apreciated.
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西(n)・英(c)
伊m1m2d.pi4pii1piv3
和m1m2d.pi?
仏m1d.pi4・独m1d.pi3
マpi2・カpi2
ポm1d.pi7・コm1d・ラm

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Re: 嗎 vs 呀

Postby smallwhite » Thu May 17, 2018 8:53 pm

今日唔係星期二咩?Isn't today Tuesday?

No idea about learning materials.
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Re: 嗎 vs 呀

Postby zKing » Thu May 17, 2018 11:23 pm

Intermediate Cantonese learner here.

Frankly, particles are a big fuzzy topic and it is often hard to get real concrete definitions for them. Fortunately, as a beginner you really don't have to know too many as there are just a few (maybe 6-8?) that are used all the time out of the 100+ that I've seen listed in places (and those lists usually contain many combinations of single particles). Most of the time particles are 'optional' when you speak; people will understand you if you don't use them. And you will almost always understand what people are saying even if they throw an odd particle you don't know on the end of a sentence. And I think for the more rare particles, even the natives might argue about _exactly_ what they mean (could be regional differences?)

Important note: Beware of particles in written Cantonese. Given that there is really no standard for written Cantonese, the particles are usually a completely inconsistent mess. You will see all kinds of variations based on what a particular author thought was the right character or tone for that particle. This is particularly bad in materials not using a standard romanization like jyutping or yale.

Off the top of my head, the following are most of the particles you will regularly see:
aa3
ge3
gaa3
laa3
laa1
laak3/1
tim1
ze1
lo1

To your specific question:
I think 嗎 maa3, (smallwhite can correct me here if I'm wrong) is mostly just used in the set phrase "你好嗎?" or variations of it or as a contraction of 冇呀 usually following 好.

呀 aa3, is used on the end of questions to "soften the abruptness" of the question, i.e. make it slightly more polite.
Don't think of it as necessary in the way a question mark is in written English.
I think it's more like the verbal fluff we add when trying to be a bit more polite, e.g.:
"Where's the bathroom?" vs.
"Could please you tell me where the bathroom is?"

For real solid resources on Cantonese grammar, the three books by Virginia Yip and Stephen Matthews are the only/gold standard:
  1. Basic Cantonese: A Grammar and Workbook (Grammar Workbooks)
  2. Intermediate Cantonese: A Grammar and Workbook (Grammar Workbooks)
  3. Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar (Routledge Comprehensive Grammars)

Some web resources for particles:
http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/essays ... ticles.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese_grammar

If you sign up to the news letter here you will get a free "Cantonese Particles Cheatsheet":
https://cantolounge.com/

And if you don't already know about it, CantoDict is the main online Dictionary for Cantonese:
http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/

Feel free to ping me if you'd like more info, I've collected a ton of resources for Cantonese over the years.
Last edited by zKing on Fri May 18, 2018 5:11 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 嗎 vs 呀

Postby zKing » Thu May 17, 2018 11:28 pm

smallwhite wrote:今日唔係星期二咩?Isn't today Tuesday?


My understanding copied from http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/essays ... ticles.htm:
me1 咩 Used in questions expressing surprise or disbelief.
maa3 嗎 Used to change a statement into a neutral question. This is used more often in Mandarin/written Chinese, but can still be heard in Cantonese. Example: 你返屋企嗎? Are you coming home?
aa3 呀 Used in neutral questions. Also used to soften the tone of affirmative statements so they don't sound as abrupt.

Does that explanation seem right to you, smallwhite?
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Re: 嗎 vs 呀

Postby smallwhite » Fri May 18, 2018 4:59 am

zKing wrote:... particles are a big fuzzy topic and it is often hard to get real concrete definitions for them. ... And I think for the more rare particles, even the natives might argue about _exactly_ what they mean (could be regional differences?)


It'd be hard for the average Joe Hongkonger to define the Cantonese particles because Cantonese is not taught at school in HK, only Written Chinese 書面語 is taught, just like teachers in Australia likely won't teach you how to use the little English words "well, umm, you know, like, sorta, that thingy, now, I mean, right..." We know next to nothing about our language except how to speak and understand it as a user.

It also gets complicated and confusing as a particle could convery several meanings and attitudes, and while I may be able to define the first or second meanings that come to mind, there could be other meanings that I may have missed. So I could be giving you different definitions every time you ask me.

And in HK, there are many immigrants from neighbouring parts of China. They and their children speak Hokkien-etc-influenced Cantonese. My grandparents speak HK Cantonese with no foreign accent, but many of my friends speak or hear dialect at home, so I might be used to hearing their distorted Cantonese.

zKing wrote:I think 嗎 maa3, (smallwhite can correct me here if I'm wrong) is mostly just used in the set phrase "你好嗎?" or variations of it or as a contraction of 冇呀 usually following 好.

(1) I never say 你好嗎 (how are you) to people orally.
(2) I write 你好嗎 (how are you) as a polite opening phrase in letters to friends and family. I pronounce this 嗎 maa1 (55 version).
(3) If you make me say 你好嗎 (how are you) to someone orally, eg. in drama, I pronounce the 嗎 maa3.

It makes my head spin to think where else 嗎 is used.

zKing wrote:
me1 咩 Used in questions expressing surprise or disbelief.
maa3 嗎 Used to change a statement into a neutral question. This is used more often in Mandarin/written Chinese, but can still be heard in Cantonese. Example: 你返屋企嗎? Are you coming home?
aa3 呀 Used in neutral questions. Also used to soften the tone of affirmative statements so they don't sound as abrupt.


Like I said above, it's hard for me to give exhausive or consistent definitions or uses of a particle.

> me1 咩 Used in questions expressing surprise or disbelief.
Agree, and there are other uses.

> maa3 嗎 Used to change a statement into a neutral question.
As a native speaker, I don't change statements to questions. I simply ask questions.

> maa3 嗎 Example: 你返屋企嗎? Are you coming home?
That sounds fine to me but I probably never say it like that.

> aa3 呀 Used in neutral questions. Also used to soften the tone of affirmative statements so they don't sound as abrupt.
Agree, and there are other uses.

I'll go read some Turkish now to unspin my head.
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Re: 嗎 vs 呀

Postby Daristani » Fri May 18, 2018 9:30 pm

Just coincidentally, I ran across this posting this morning on the complexity of Cantonese particles ("The Wonder of Cantonese particles", with some additional comments and references):

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=38229
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