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Malaysian Cantonese
Máhlòihsāia Gwóngdūngwá
Native toMalaysia
RegionPerak, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Klang Valley, Sabak Bernam, Sarikei, Sandakan
EthnicityMalaysian Chinese
Chinese Characters (Written Cantonese)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Malaysian Cantonese
Traditional Chinese馬來西亞廣東話
Cantonese YaleMáhlòihsāia Gwóngdūngwá
Alternative name
Traditional Chinese馬來西亞廣府話
Cantonese YaleMáhlòihsāia Gwóngfúwá
Malay name
MalayBahasa Kantonis / Bahasa Konghu

Malaysian Cantonese (Chinese: 馬來西亞廣東話; Cantonese Yale: Máhlòihsāia Gwóngdūngwá) is a local variety of Cantonese spoken in Malaysia. It is the lingua franca among Chinese throughout much of the central portion of Peninsular Malaysia, being spoken in the capital Kuala Lumpur, Perak (Kinta Valley, Batang Padang, Muallim, Hulu Perak, Kuala Kangsar, Bagan Datoh, Hilir Perak and Perak Tengah), Pahang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, it is also widely understood to varying degrees by many Chinese throughout the country, regardless of their ancestral language.

Malaysian Cantonese is not uniform throughout the country, with variation between individuals and areas. It is mutually intelligible with Cantonese spoken in both Hong Kong and Guangzhou in Mainland China but has distinct differences in vocabulary and pronunciation which make it unique.

Geographic spread

Green indicates areas where Minnan (Including Hokkien & Teochew) predominates; Orange indicates areas where Cantonese predominates; Light blue indicates areas where Hakka predominates; Purple indicates areas where multiple languages predominate.
Green indicates areas where Minnan (Including Hokkien & Teochew) predominates; Orange indicates areas where Cantonese predominates; Light blue indicates areas where Hakka predominates; Purple indicates areas where multiple languages predominate.

Cantonese is widely spoken amongst Malaysian Chinese in the capital Kuala Lumpur[1] and throughout much of the surrounding Klang Valley (Petaling Jaya, Ampang, Cheras, Selayang, Sungai Buloh, Puchong, Shah Alam, Kajang, Bangi and Subang Jaya) excluding Klang itself where Hokkien predominates. It is also widely spoken in the town of Sekinchan in the Sabak Bernam district of northern Selangor. It is also used or widely spoken in northeast and central areas as well as parts of southern Perak, especially in the state capital Ipoh and the surrounding towns of the Kinta Valley region (Gopeng, Batu Gajah and Kampar) as well as the towns of Tapah and Bidor in the Batang Padang district of southern Perak and to a lesser extent in the districts of Kuala Kangsar, Perak Tengah, Hilir Perak, Bagan Datoh, Muallim and Hulu Perak (Cantonese of Kwongsai origins).[2][3][4] In Pahang, it is spoken in the state capital town of Kuantan and also widely found or spoken amongst the local Chinese populace in other districts such as Raub, Maran, Jerantut, Bentong, Rompin, Kuala Lipis, Bera, Pekan, Temerloh and Cameron Highlands.[5][6] Cantonese is also spoken throughout most of Negeri Sembilan, particularly in the state capital Seremban.[7] It is widely spoken in Sandakan, Sabah and Cantonese speakers can also be found in other areas such as Segamat, Johor, Keningau, Sabah, Sarikei, Sarawak, Batu Pahat, Johor, Miri, Sarawak and Mersing, Johor.[8]

Due to its predominance in the capital city, Cantonese is highly influential in local Chinese-language media and is used in commerce by Malaysian Chinese.[9][10] As a result, Cantonese is widely understood and spoken with varying fluency by Chinese throughout Malaysia, regardless of their language group. This is in spite of Hokkien being the most widely spoken variety and Mandarin being the medium of education at Chinese-language schools. The widespread influence of Cantonese is also due in large part to the popularity of Hong Kong media, particularly TVB dramas.

Phonological Differences

A sizeable portion of Malaysian Cantonese speakers, including native speakers, are not of Cantonese ancestry, with many belonging to different ancestral language groups such as Hakka, Hokkien and Teochew. The historical and continued influence of their original language has produced variation and change in the pronunciation of particular sounds in Malaysian Cantonese when compared to "standard" Cantonese.[11] Depending on their ancestral origin and educational background, some speakers may not exhibit the unique characteristics described below.

Vocabulary Differences

Malaysian Cantonese is in contact with many other Chinese languages such as Hakka, Hokkien and Teochew as well other languages such Malay and English.[11] As a result, it has absorbed many loanwords and expressions that may not be found in Cantonese spoken elsewhere. Malaysian Cantonese also preserves some vocabulary which would be considered old fashioned or unusual in Hong Kong but may be preserved in other Cantonese speaking areas such as Guangzhou.[12] Not all of the examples below are used throughout Malaysia, with differences in vocabulary between different Cantonese speaking areas such as Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Sandakan. There may also be differences based on the speaker's educational background and native dialect.

Malaysian Meaning Hong Kong Note
báai Number of times chi From Hokkien pai ()
蘇嗎 soū/sū mā All 全部 chyùn bouh From Malay semua, many potential pronunciations e.g. sū mūa
巴剎 bā saat Market/Wet Market 街市 gāai síh From Malay pasar, originally from Persian bazaar
馬打 ma dá Police 警察 gíng chaat From Malay mata-mata
馬打寮 ma dá lìuh Police Station 警署,[14] gíng chyúh
扮𠮨 baan naai Clever 聰明 chūng mìhng/叻 lēk From Malay pandai
千猜 chīn chāai Whatever/Casually 是但 sih daahn Also used in Malay Cincai and in Hokkien
軋爪 gaat jáau To Annoy 煩 fàahn From Malay kacau
Sinang sīn nāang Easy 容易 yùhng yih From Malay senang
Loti lo di Bread 麵包 mihn bāau From Malay roti, originally from Tamil/Sanskrit
Kopi go bī Coffee 咖啡 ga fē From Malay Kopi
lūi/lēui Money chìhn From Malay duit or Hokkien lui (鐳)
kāu Units of Currency (Ringgit/Dollar) mān Related to Hokkien khoo (箍)
黃梨 wòhng láai* Pineapple 菠蘿 bō lòh Pronunciation differs, based on Hokkien
弓蕉 gūng jīu Banana 香蕉 hēung jīu
落水 lohk séui Raining 落雨 lohk yúh From Hakka
lìuh To play wàahn Derived from Hakka 尞
啦啦 lā lā Clam gaap
啦啦仔 lā lā jái Urban punk MK仔 MK jái
水草 séui chóu Drinking straw 飲管 yám gún
跳飛機 tiu fēi gēi Illegal immigration 非法移民 fēi faat yìh màhn
書館 syū gún/學堂 hohk tòhng School 學校 hohk haauh
堂/唐 tòhng Classifier for vehicles e.g. cars e.g. "2 Cars", 兩堂車 léuhng/líohng tòhng chē (Malaysia), 兩架車 léuhng gá chē (Hong Kong)
腳車 geuk/giok chē Bicycle 單車 dāan chē
摩哆 mo dō Motorcycle 電單車 dihn dāan chē From English motorcycle
三萬 sāam maahn Fine/Penalty 罰款 faht fún From English summons and Malay saman
泵質 būng jāt Punctured 爆胎 baau tōi From English punctured
禮申 láih sān Licence 車牌 chē pàaih From English licence
多籠 Dó Lòng Beg/Please 求下 Kao Har From Malay Tolong
啲飲 Dī yùm Keep Quiet 收聲 sau1 seng1 From Malay Diam
呔也 Tái yà Tyre 輪胎 Leun tai From English Tyre
撚屎撚樣 lan si lan yong Arrogant and Uptight 巴閉/好串 ba bai hou qun From Hakka lin si lin yong
浸水 zham sui Flood 水浸 sui zham From Hakka chim sui
好類 hou lui Very Dumb 好蠢 Hou cun From Hakka how lui
龍根 Lóng Kàng Drain 坑渠 Haang 1 Keoi4 From Malay Longkang
插電 or Charge 電cāp dīn or Chárge dīn Recharge Battery 叉電/充電 caa din, chong din From Hakka ???not sure /From English Charge
雪茶 - Kuala Lumpur syut3 caa4
茶雪 - Ipoh caa4 syuut3
Chinese Tea 中國茶 zhong gwok caa
大撚戇 tāi làn ngong Doing very stupid things 亂咁做嘢 leun gam zou ye From Hakka tai lin ngong eg; referring to someone for being dense doing at their work

See also


  1. ^ 《马来西亚的三个汉语方言》中之 吉隆坡广东话阅谭 (PDF) (in Simplified Chinese). New Era University College. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Table for 2.... Or more: Kwong Sai (GuangXi) Stuffed Tofu 广西酿豆腐 - Heritage Week # 2". 24 August 2011.
  3. ^ "Kalim-Travel Journal: Betong, Thailand". 20 July 2009.
  4. ^ "Table for 2.... Or more: Guangxi Style Steamed Chicken 广西白切鸡 - MFF Pahang #5". 7 December 2012.
  5. ^ Ember, Melvin; Ember, Carol R.; Skoggard, Ian (30 November 2004). Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World. Volume I: Overviews and Topics; Volume II: Diaspora Communities. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9780306483219 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Leitner, Gerhard; Hashim, Azirah; Wolf, Hans-Georg (11 January 2016). Communicating with Asia: The Future of English as a Global Language. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107062610 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Gin, Ooi Keat (11 May 2009). Historical Dictionary of Malaysia. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810863057 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Astro AEC, Behind the Dialect Groups, Year 2012
  9. ^ Malaysian Cantonese Archived May 27, 2014, at
  10. ^ Tze Wei Sim, Why are the Native Languages of the Chinese Malaysians in Decline. Journal of Taiwanese Vernacular, p. 74, 2012
  11. ^ a b c Wee Kek Koon (2018-11-01). "Why Cantonese spoken in Malaysia sounds different to Hong Kong Cantonese, and no it's not 'wrong'". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  12. ^ Wee Kek Koon (2017-04-20). "Southeast Asian Cantonese – why Hongkongers should not ridicule it". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  13. ^ "仆街 (Puk1 gaai1 | pu1 jie1) : "go to hell" (Profanity) - CantoDict".
  14. ^ "联络我们". 香港警务处.