Rethinking Cantonese grammar: typology, processing and acquisition

Project reference no: HKU7482/07H

Principal investigator: Stephen Matthews  

The project aims to revisit selected issues in the grammar of Cantonese from three complementary perspectives which have been investigated in the researchers' recent projects. The typological perspective offers a comparative dimension; the processing perspective focuses on how speakers of the language process incoming speech and formulate sentence structures in real time; and the acquisition perspective considers how the same structures develop in children acquiring Cantonese in monolingual and bilingual contexts. The intention is to use these complementary perspectives as converging evidence to illuminate Cantonese grammar.

The study combines data from corpora and psycholinguistic experiments conducted by the research team to shed light on the analysis of grammatical phenomena in Cantonese. Besides leading to specialized studies of grammatical topics in the form of journal articles, the work will contribute to a substantially revised edition of the investigators’ influential work, Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar, first published by Routledge in 1994. The results are expected to contribute to theoretical and empirical issues in the study of Cantonese grammar. The findings of the project will also be useful to a wide range of professionals and researchers including linguists, psychologists, educators and clinicians whose work involves Cantonese.