The English equivalents of Cantonese sentence-final particles : a contrastive analysis

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The English equivalents of Cantonese sentence-final particles : a contrastive analysis


Author: Wakefield, John C
Title: The English equivalents of Cantonese sentence-final particles : a contrastive analysis
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2011
Subject: Cantonese dialects -- Particles
English language -- Particles
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: xii, 278 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: Cantonese has a lexical tone system that severely restricts its ability to manipulate pitch. As a result, many of the speaker-oriented discourse meanings that are expressed through intonation in languages such as English are expressed in the form of sentence-final particles (SFPs) in Cantonese. Although this is widely known and accepted by linguists, apparently no study to date has made a systematic attempt to discover whether any of the more than 30 Cantonese SFPs have English intonational equivalents, and if so, what those equivalents are. To work towards filling this research gap, this study examines the English intonational equivalents of four Cantonese SFPs that divide into the following two pairs: particles of obviousness: lo1 and aa1maa3; question particles: me1 and aa4. The English equivalent form of each of the four SFPs of this study is identified by examining the pitch contours of Cantonese-to-English audio translations, provided by Cantonese/English native-bilingual participants. A definition using Wierzbicka's (1996) natural semantic metalanguage (NSM) is proposed for each SFP, which is hypothesized to apply equally to its English intonational counterpart. Following proposals of Hirst's (1983a) regarding "emphatic intonation," these pitch contours are proposed to be floating tones that exist as lexical entries in the minds of native-English speakers. Syntactic positions are proposed for the SFPs and their English equivalents adopting Rizzi's (1997) split-CP hypothesis. The findings of this study have far reaching implications regarding the descriptions and classifications of intonation, as well as regarding the classifications of the various forms of suprasegmentals. This study used segmental discourse markers to discover their suprasegmental counterparts in English, exploiting a unique window through which to examine the forms and meanings of English discourse intonation, which is one of the least understood and most difficult to study aspects of English. This research has arguably provided the strongest and clearest evidence to date regarding the forms and meanings of the particular forms of English intonation with which it deals.

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