Jyutping (Tones)

13 11 2008

 In Cantonese, unlike English, there are nine different tones in six distinct tone contours. Each tone represents different meaning which it is combined with a syllable. Therefore, you need to be very careful when using different tones.

Tone name  Tone number Tone name in English Description Example
陰平 jam1 ping4 1 Upper Level High Level/High Falling si1
陰上 jam1 soeng5 2 Upper Rising Mid Rising si2
陰去 jam1 hoei3 3 Upper Departing Mid Level si3
陽平 joeng4 ping4 4 Lower Level Low Falling si4
陽上 joeng4 soeng5 5 Lower Rising Low Rising si5
陽去 joeng4 hoei3 6 Lower Departing Low Level si6
陰入1 jam1 jap6 1 Upper Entering Entering High Level sik1
中入 zung1 jap6 3 Upper Entering  Entering Mid Level sik3
陽入 joeng4 jap6 6 Lower Engering Entering Low Level sik6


Among the six tones, you have to rise, maintain or lower the relative pitch of your voice to “sing” each word. It is interesting to note that three the nine tones are called entering tones (入聲 jap6 sing1). They are not tones in phonetic sense, but instead they describe a syllable which ends in a stop consonant, such as p, t, k, or glottal stop. Therefore, we have six contour tones in syllables that end in a vowel or nasal consonant, while number of tones is reduced to three for entering tones. Tone in Cantonese is extremely important because it is a distinctive feature, meaning a different tone with exactly the same consonant and vowels can have a completely different meaning.


This diagram shows how to maintain, rise or lower your relative pitch for the six contour tones in Cantonese.




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