Cantonese, or Standard Cantonese (simplified Chinese: 广州话; traditional Chinese: 廣州話), is a language that originated in the vicinity of Canton (i.e., Guangzhou) in southern China, and is often regarded as the prestige dialect of Yue.
Inside mainland China, it is a lingua franca in Guangdong Province and some neighbouring areas, such as the eastern part of Guangxi Province. Outside mainland China, it is spoken by the majority population of Hong Kong and Macau in everyday life. It is also spoken by overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia (like Malaysia, Christmas Island), Canada, Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Panama, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the United States where it is the third most common language in the country.
While the term Cantonese refers narrowly to the prestige dialect described in this article, it is often used in a broader sense for the entire Yue branch of Chinese, including related dialects such as Taishanese.
The Cantonese language is also viewed as part of the cultural identity for the native speakers across large swathes of southern China, Hong Kong and Macau. Although Cantonese shares much vocabulary with Mandarin Chinese, the two languages are not mutually intelligible because of pronunciation, grammatical, and also lexical differences. Sentence structure, in particular the placement of verbs, sometimes differs between the two languages. The use of vocabulary in Cantonese also tends to have more historic roots. One of the most notable differences between Cantonese and Mandarin is how the spoken word is written; with Mandarin the spoken word is written as such, whereas with Cantonese there may not be a direct written word matching what was said. This results in the situation in which a Mandarin and Cantonese text almost look the same, but both are pronounced differently.
In English, the term "Cantonese" is ambiguous. Cantonese proper is the language native to the city of Canton, which is the traditional English name of Guangzhou, and later brought to Hong Kong and Macau; this narrow sense may be specified as "Canton language" or "Guangzhou language" in English.