Focus Manifestation in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese: A Comparative Perspective, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Focus Manifestation in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese

A Comparative Perspective, 1st Edition

By Peppina Po-lun Lee


256 pages

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Hardback: 9781138568112
pub: 2019-04-26
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One prominent function of natural language is to convey information. One peculiarity is that it does not do so randomly, but in a structured way, with information structuring formally recognized to be a component of grammar. Among all information structuring notions, focus is one primitive needed to account for all phenomena.

Focus Manifestation in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese: A Comparative Perspective aims to examine from a semantic perspective how syntactic structures and focus adverbs in Mandarin Chinese and semantic particles in Cantonese conspire to encode focus structures and determine focus manifestation in Chinese. With both as tonal languages, Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese manifest different morpho-syntactic configurations to mark focus. A general principle governing focus marking in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese is given in the book, which aims to give a better understanding on the underlying principles the two used to mark additive and restrictive meanings, and related focus interpretations. Particular attention is also drawn to the co-occurrence of multiple forms of restrictive and additive particles in Cantonese, including adverbs, verbal suffixes and sentence-final particles. Linearity has shown to be an important parameter to determine how focus is structured in Cantonese.

This book is aimed at advanced graduate students, researchers and scholars working on Chinese linguistics, syntax and semantics, and comparative dialectal grammar.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Chapter One: Introduction

  1. The Problem
  2. Scope of the Study and Major Ideas to be Proposed
  3. Organization

Chapter Two: Theoretical Background

  1. Information Structure and Focus Particles
  2. Focus Representation and Interpretation
  3. 2.1 Association with Focus

    2.2 Syntax-semantics Mapping of Focus

  4. What is Special about Cantonese?
    1. Some Basic Facts about Cantonese
    2. Post-verbal Particles in Cantonese

4. The Meaning of Focus Particles in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese: An Overview

4.1 Additives and Restrictives in Mandarin

4.2 Additives and Restrictives in Cantonese

Chapter Three: Additive Focus Particles

  1. Introduction
  2. Additive Focus Adverbs in Mandarin Chinese
  3. 2.1 Additive Focus Adverbs you ‘again’, ye ‘also’, hai ‘still’ and zai ‘again’

    2.2 A Comparison of Mandarin Additive Adverbs with their Cantonese Counterparts

  4. Additive Particles in Cantonese
    1. Additive Cantonese sentence-final Particle tim1 ‘add’
    2. 3.1.1 A Brief Description of Cantonese sentence-final Particle tim1 ‘add’

      3.1.2 Tim1 ‘add’ Requires an Upward Movement on the Scale

    3. Cantonese Additive Adverb gau3 ‘enough’

    3.2.1 A Brief Introduction of Cantonese Additive Adverb gau3 ‘enough

    3.2.2 Two Conditions Governing the Occurrence of gau3 ‘enough’

    3.2.3 Interpretation of "gau3…SFPassert": 75

    A Twofold Semantics of "gau3…SFPassert"

    3.2.4 Determination of the Contrasting Point and

    the Decrease Reading of the Predicate

    3.2.5 A Comparison between gau3 ‘enough’ and dou1 ‘even/also’

    3.3 Additive Verbal Suffix –maai4 ‘also’

  5. Summary: What do Cantonese additives and Mandarin additives tell you?

Chapter Four: Restrictive Focus Particles

  1. Introduction
  2. Restrictive Focus Adverbs in Mandarin Chinese
    1. Restrictive Focus Adverbs cai ‘only’ and jiu ‘only’
    2. Restrictive Focus Adverbs zhi (-you/-shi) ‘only (-have/-be)’

3. Cantonese Restrictive Sentence-final Particles zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’

3.1 Previous Analyses of Cantonese Restrictive SFPs zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’

3.2 Reanalyzing zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’ under

the Relativist Semantic Theory

3.3 A Comparison of zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’ with Mandarin cai ‘only’/

jiu ‘only’ and Cantonese adverb sin1 ‘then’

4. Cantonese Restrictive Verbal Suffix –dak1 ‘only’

4.1 Previous Analyses of -dak1 ‘only’

4.2 Unresolved Issues of –dak1 ‘only’

4.3 A Unified Account to –dak1 ‘only’

4.3.1 The Role of Syntax in Affixal Quantification

4.3.2 Selectional Restrictions of –dak1 ‘only’

4.4 Focused Readings of –dak1

5. Restrictive Adverbs in Cantonese

6. What Restrictive Particles and Additives Particles in Mandarin Chinese and

Cantonese Can Tell You?

6.1 Restrictive Particles in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese

6.2 Generalizing Focus Marking in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese

Chapter Five: Distribution of Additives and Restrictives in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese

  1. Introduction
  2. Co-occurrence of additives in Mandarin and Cantonese and the linearity principle
  3. Distribution of additive adverbs and post-verbal particles in Mandarin and Cantonese
    1. A comparison among gau3 ‘enough’, dou1 ‘also/even’, -maai4 ‘also’

and tim1 ‘add’

3.2 A Comparison with Mandarin dou ‘even/also’, ye ‘also’ and hai ‘still’

3.3 The Division of labor among Mandarin and Cantonese additives

4. Co-occurrence of restrictives in Mandarin and Cantonese and the linearity principle

5. Distribution of restrictive adverbs and post-verbal particles in Mandarin

and Cantonese

6. Deriving a general principle of focus marking in Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese

6.1 Shi…(de) construction in Mandarin --- the role of syntax in focus marking

6.2 Generalizing a General Principle of focus marking in Mandarin Chinese

and Cantonese

Chapter Six: Conclusions: Theoretical Consequences and Implications

1. Summary of Major Findings

2. Revisiting the General Principle of Focus Marking in Mandarin and Cantonese:

What Does it Imply?

2.1 A Matter of Interface --- Cantonese vs. Mandarin 208

2.2 Linearity in focus interpretation in Cantonese

3. More on the Role of Syntax in Focus Manifestation in Mandarin and Cantonese

4. Future Research




About the Author

Peppina Po-lun Lee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Translation at City University of Hong Kong. She has published more than forty single-authored/co-authored research papers in refereed journals and edited books. Major publications appeared in Lingua, Linguistics, Journal of Pragmatics, Language and Linguistics, as well as ZhongguoYuwen (Studies of the Chinese Language) and Dangdai Yuyanxue (Contemporary Linguistics). Specializing in theoretical linguistics, her research interests cover semantics, syntax-semantics interface, Chinese and Cantonese linguistics. She has worked on a variety of research topics, including focus and information structure, negation, eventuality, quantification and particles.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Chinese Linguistics

Routledge Studies in Chinese Linguistics is a state-of-the-art book series showcasing high quality research on the linguistics of the Chinese language. Titles in the series range from seminal classics to cutting edge studies in the field, and comprise both research monographs and edited volumes.

Contributions are welcomed from all areas of linguistic study applied to the Chinese language, including but not limited to phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, stylistics, sociolinguistics, language and communication, historical linguistics, dialectology, language acquisition, language pedagogy, corpus linguistics, bilingualism and Chinese for specific purposes, etc.

Published in English, titles in the series will be of great interest to postgraduate students and scholars in the fields of Chinese language and linguistics.

If you have a book proposal or idea in mind that might be suitable for the series, please contact the series editor Hongming Zhang of the University of Wisconsin-Madison ( For more information on submitting a proposal to Routledge, please visit

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