The Semantics of Utterance Particles in Informal Hong Kong Cantonese (Natural Semantic Metalanguage Approach)
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This study identifies the semantic invariants of some commonly-used Cantonese utterance particles in Hong Kong Cantonese. The particles are a distinctive and ubiquitous feature of informal, everyday Cantonese, occurring every 1.5 seconds on average (Luke 1990, 11). The particles are necessary for expressing speakers’ transitory attitudes, assumptions, or feelings connected with an utterance. Although they are not grammatically obligatory, conversation sounds unnatural when they are omitted. There are approximately 30 ‘basic’ particles, which can combine with each other to form ‘clusters’, resulting in roughly 100 variations. This number easily surpasses that of comparable particles in Mandarin, and is matched by very few, if any, other languages. Semantic analysis of Cantonese utterance particles is challenging because their meanings are extremely elusive, even to native speakers. The range of use of each particle is so varied and wide- ranging that some Cantonese speakers and scholars have concluded that the particles have no stable semantic content. Prior research on the particles has produced contradictory, vague, obscure or inaccurate descriptions.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science
Item Access Status
Hong Kong cantonese