The Syntax and Semantics of Topics and Foci in Cantonese

Project: Research

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To date, no systematic studies have been conducted on Cantonese information structure, and topics and focus features, major devices used for structuring information, in Cantonese are assumed to be on a par with Mandarin. However, closer examination reveals significant differences between the two, due to unique devices Cantonese speakers employ in marking topics and foci: (i) focusing realized in various syntactic and morphological categories, including preverbal adverbs, post-verbal particles, and sentence-final particles, with the latter two categories particularly rich and demonstrating a wide range of focusing properties; (ii) topic particles, the occurrence of which does not prevent different particles from occurring in post-verbal and sentence-final positions; (iii) unconstrained right dislocation in Cantonese, which is problematic to current syntactic and semantic studies; and (iv) verbal topicalization, a special informationally loaded construction in Cantonese.This project aims to understand the way topics and foci are represented in Cantonese by carrying out a syntactic and semantic study on the above-mentioned unique devices. It represents the first theoretical study to systematically examine information structure in Cantonese. Moreover, comparisons between Cantonese and Mandarin will provide a more profound understanding of their differences and similarities, and the study will not only contribute to academic research in Cantonese linguistics, but also to linguistic theories in general.


Project number7002061
Grant typeSRG
Effective start/end date1/04/074/03/10