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The semantics of the Cantonese utterance particle 'laa1'

CollectionsAustralian Linguistic Society Conference (2011)
Title: The semantics of the Cantonese utterance particle 'laa1'
Author(s): Leung, Helen Hue Lam
Australian Linguistic Society
Keywords: Cantonese
Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM)
utterance particle
sentence-final particle
Publisher: Australian Linguistic Society
Citation: Leung, H. H. L. (2012). The semantics of the Cantonese utterance particle 'laa1'. In M. Ponsonnet, L. Dao & M. Bowler (Eds), Proceedings of the 42nd Australian Linguistic Society Conference – 2011, Australian National University, Canberra ACT, 2-4 December 2011 (pp. 245-280).
Series/Report no.: Australian Linguistic Society Conference: 42nd
This paper will carry out an in-depth semantic analysis of one of the most salient and frequently used Cantonese utterance particles, 'laa1' (high level tone). Cantonese utterance particles occur in continuous talk every 1.5 seconds on average, and play a very important role in Cantonese speakers’ self-expression. There are approximately one hundred utterance particles in Cantonese, outnumbering those in Mandarin. However, it has been suggested that the particles have no meaning, and there has not been much comprehensive semantic analysis of individual particles. Where utterance particles have previously been described, the descriptions do not fully and accurately convey their meanings. In this study, a range of naturally occurring examples of 'laa1' from the Hong Kong Cantonese Corpus will be examined, and an invariant meaning of 'laa1' proposed using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM). This approach offers advantages over previous descriptions of 'laa1', and will allow a simple, precise and translatable definition to be constructed. It is found that 'laa1' indicates some shared knowledge between a speaker and an addressee. This study addresses the current gap in Cantonese linguistics, and contributes to the understanding of Cantonese utterance particles.
ISBN: 978-0-9802815-4-5


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