Word order and subjectivity in Cantonese

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Word order and subjectivity in Cantonese

 

Author: Wong, Cheuk-lam Cherie
Title: Word order and subjectivity in Cantonese
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2010
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Cantonese dialects
Department: Dept. of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: x, 158 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm.
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2393060
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/5940
Abstract: Cantonese is renowned for having a rich inventory of postverbal elements which can express a large variety of meanings. They attract much attention because their grammatical status is highly controversial. Even more intriguing is that some of them can be both preverbal and postverbal; the two of them are interchangeable in some contexts but not in others. The thesis argues that the word order in Cantonese is a means to encode subjectivity. It investigates the interaction between word order and subjectivity from the perspective of functional grammar through three studies. The thesis starts with the usage of the modal morpheme: gang2 梗. Gang bears only one semantic meaning of certainty and necessity. It can occur at either the preverbal or postverbal position. The thesis demonstrates that the postverbal gang encodes a more subjective modality when comparing with the preverbal gang. The thesis then studies the usage of the temporal morpheme: sin1 先. The preverbal and postverbal sin can even co-occur in a single sentence. Sin is polysemous, in particular the postverbal one. The thesis demonstrates that different semantic meanings and even various grammatical classes have been developed from the postverbal sin through semantic extension among various linguistic domains, such as the sentential, propositional and speech act domains. The thesis argues that metaphorical extension is also a manifestation of subjectification and concludes that the postverbal sin is more subjective than the preverbal sin. The thesis moves on to the usage of the restrictive morpheme denoted by Z-. Z- represents a large family of morphemes in which all the members share the same onset and the core meaning of restriction. The Z- members being studied are the preverbal zi2 只 (or zi2hai6 只係), zing6 淨 (or zing6hai6 淨係), zaai1 齋 and the postverbal zaa3 咋, ze1 啫, zek1 唧, zi1maa3 之嘛. Due to their difference in phonological form, they are seldom being considered as cognate words. The thesis proposes that the two surface forms are evolved from the same semantic prime: restriction. The preverbal Z- is a more objective adverb whereas the postverbal Z- becomes a more subjective sentence-final particle. Based on the three studies, the thesis puts forth an argument that the morpheme conveys a more subjective meaning when it is placed at the postverbal position, whereas it delivers a relatively objective meaning when it is placed at the preverbal position.

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