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  • Peter Kam Fai Cheung SBS

Literary Cantonese

I became aware of the Chinese language problem when I was about 10. Back then, I would go to a hillside pool to play with water before attending school. One morning, while I was recalling my adventures in class, the teacher asked me to make a sentence with a Chinese phrase.

"Can I make the sentence in spoken Cantonese?" I reacted but heard giggles with my silly question, obviously not knowing it was not recognized as literary Chinese. Standing on my feet, I retracted and made the sentence as expressed in the written way, though sounded unnatural it was.

Now, I dislike Cantonese songs with lyrics that no Cantonese would speak even if they can understand. So when I compose the Cantonese lyrics, I insist that they must be spoken ones, making my songs raw but real. "Can spoken Cantonese be literary too?" You may wonder.

Here are some of the poetic lines written during the Tang or Sung dynasties (618 AD -1279 AD). "行行重行行...","舉頭明月...","寧可無肉...","路有凍死骨...","問君能有幾多愁...", and "隔籬呼取盡餘杯!"

Only Cantonese would still speak the bolded words!

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