Monosyllabic Salience in Cantonese: Facilitation of transference of monosyllabic English words (MEWs) into Hong Kong Cantonese-English mixed code

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Based on two published journal articles:      1.李楚成,梁慧敏,黄倩萍,黄得森 [Li, David C. S., Leung, W. M., Wong, Cathy S. P., & Wong, Sam. T. S.] (2015). 香港粤语「单音节促发论」分析  语言接触下的新视角 [Facilitation of transference of monosyllabic English words into Hong Kong Cantonese: A new perspective of language contact]. 中国社会语言学 (The Journal of Chinese Sociolinguistics), 24(1), 96-108.          2.Li, David C.S., Wong, Cathy S.P., Leung, W.M. & Wong, Sam. T.S. (2016). Facilitation of transference: The case of monosyllabic salience in Hong Kong Cantonese. Linguistics 54(1): 1-58.          Abstract: Drawing on Clyne’s (2003) explanatory framework of facilitation, this study presents evidence of monosyllabic salience in Hong Kong Cantonese. Grounded in the perceptual salience of bilingual speakers of two or more languages(Clyne 1997: 95), facilitation extends Clyne’s earlier work on triggering (1967, 1980), which seeks to explain why linguistic (phonological, lexical, syntactic, semantic, etc.) features of one’s earlier-acquired language(s) may be transferred to languages learned or used later. In a corpus of texts appearing in informal discourse of Hong Kong Chinese newspaper columns in the mid-1990s (Li et al. 2014), a large number of monosyllabic English words, occurring as unintegrated insertions (Muysken 2000), were found. Building on Luke and Lau’s (2008) empirically supported insight that Cantonese verbs and adjectives are more characteristically monosyllabic compared with nouns, we present additional evidence in support of the Monosyllabic Salience Hypothesis (MSH): (i) shorter average word length in Cantonese vis-à-vis Mandarin, as evidenced in miscellaneous wordlists, including the Leipzig-Jakarta list (Tadmor et al. 2010: 239–241) and the World Loanword Database (WOLD) online (Haspelmath and Tadmor 2009); (ii) the truncation of the first syllable of polysyllabic words embedded in the A-not-A structure; (iii) bilingual punning; and (iv) monosyllabic Romanized Cantonese words (e.g., chok, chur, hea). 
Period13 Nov 202014 Nov 2020
Event titleThe 24th International Conference on Yue Dialects 第廿四屆國際粵方言研討會
Event typeCompetition
Conference number24th
LocationMacau, ChinaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • monosyllabic, lexical borrowing, transference, codeswitching, language contact