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Academic Paper


Title: The Acquisition of Cantonese Classifiers by Preschool Children in Hong Kong
Author: Shek Kam Tse
Institution: University of Hong Kong
Author: Hui Li
Email: click here to access email
Author: Shing On Leung
Institution: University of Macau
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Psycholinguistics
Subject Language: Chinese, Yue
Abstract: The Cantonese language has a complex classifier system and young learners need to pay attention to both the semantics and syntax of classifiers. This study investigated the repertoire of classifiers produced by 492 Cantonese-speaking preschoolers in three age groups (3;0, 4;0 and 5;0). Spontaneous utterances produced in 30-minute toy-play contexts were collected and transcribed. Analyses identified a productive repertoire of 73 classifiers in the utterances, which could be appropriately classified into the typology proposed in the present study. An age-related increase in the number of classifier types per child as well as the repertoire size of each group was found. 個 (go3) (CL) was widely used as the general classifier by the young children. It was also discovered that the three-year-olds were already showing signs of grasping the basic syntax of classifiers. Cognitive, linguistic and contextual influences presumed to shape the evidence are discussed.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Journal of Child Language Vol. 34, Issue 3, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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