Facilitation of transference: The case of monosyllabic salience in Hong Kong Cantonese

Chor Shing David Li, Cathy S.P. Wong, Wai Mun Leung, Sam T.S. Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


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).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-58
Number of pages58
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Facilitation of transference: The case of monosyllabic salience in Hong Kong Cantonese'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this