for the degree of Master of Philosophy
Department of Linguistics
at The University of Hong Kong
in July 2002
The semantics of two analytic Cantonese causative constructions are examined: resultative (RVC) and V-dou3 causatives. With the contention that language reflects human experience, we first investigate how iconicity is manifested in Cantonese causatives. It is shown that, in accordance with Tai’s (1985) Principle of Temporal Sequence, there is an iconic mapping between order of linguistic constituents and experience of temporal sequence in reality in RVC and V-dou3 causatives. That RVC causatives tend to express direct causation and V-dou3 causatives indirect causation is accounted for by Haiman’s (1983) principle of linguistic and conceptual distance.
Metaphor is a more abstract form of iconicity. We argue that grammaticalization
is responsible for the development of grammatical function in dou3 from
its verbal meaning, involving metaphorical extension which also accounts
for the strong parallelism found between the domains of space and causation.
Lastly, we attempt to represent Cantonese causatives within the framework of Jackendoff’s Conceptual Semantics. It is shown that the formulation of English resultatives is applicable to RVC and V-dou3 causatives which function like “constructional idioms”. In adopting a formal semantic representation, we aim to provide an explicit formalization of Cantonese causatives, including cases of inverse theta role assignment.