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Dear Linguist Listers,
I am an M. Phil. student working on Right Dislocation (RD) in
Cantonese (a dialect of Chinese spoken in Guangdong province or Hong
Kong). I would like to invite observations in other languages from
listers. Before asking the questions, I would like to briefly tell you
the kind of phenomena I have in mind.
In colloquial speech, it is often possible to dislocate elements in a
sentence to the final position, even after the Sentence Final Particle
(SFP). It is sometimes considered to be afterthought or a performance
error and is rejected in writing. Here are some Cantonese RD examples.
(1) ngo gammaan wui heoi tai hei go-wo [canonical version]
I tonight will go see movie SFP=09
''I will go to the movie tonight.''
(1') ngo heoi tai hei go-wo gammaan wui [RD version]
I go see movie SFP tonight will=09
''I will go to the movie tonight.'' [NB: ''gammaan wui'' dislocated]
Here is the basic characterisation of Right Dislocation.
- One or more elements are dislocated out of their canonical position to
the end of sentence. In some cases, the dislocated part is coreferential
with a pronoun in the sentence. I expect genuine RD can dislocate not just
things like ''I think'', ''I guess'', ''perhaps'', ''actually'', etc.
- Often but not necessary, the initial part of a RD sentece bears some
important information the speaker chooses to say first. The dislocated part
conveys information presupposed/accessible/ inferrable from the immediate
- Generally the dislocated part is unstressed.
Comparable phenomena have been reported in other languages as well. They
include Mandarin Chinese (Lu 1980), French (Ashby 1988; Lambrecht 1981),
Tamil (Herring 1994), and Catalan (Vallduv=ED 1992).
(2) Il-attend devant la porte, le gar=E7on. Lambrecht (1981)
(3) El ganivet l 'hi ficarem, al calaix. Vallduv=ED (1995)
the knife OBJ-LOC we will put in the drawer
Geluykens (1994) also argues that English RD is a conversational
repair, more like a genuine afterthought, e.g. ''He is a stupid guy,
John.'' If he is correct, I would consider English RD not the kind of
RD I have been considering.
a. Do any of the languages (esp. in colloquial form) you know of exhibit
If YES, could you give a brief description of it, such as basic
syntactic properties and function? The characterization of RD above is
tentative. If RD in your case does not pattern squarely with it, I
would still like to know it.
If NO, I still like to know what languages do not permit RD.
b. What can be dislocated? Cantonese and Mandarin allow dislocation of
a wide variety of categories, e.g. Subj./Accusative Obj. NP, modals,
most adverbs, and some others. However, French, Catalan, and Tamil are
reported to be rather limited in this aspect, allowing NP and
PP. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I am particularly interested in the dislocation of modal and adverbs, if
any, as they are relatively more fixed in position.
c. Do you know any references to this kind of phenomenon in any language?
Sorry for the long message. I will post a summary of your
responses. Thanks a lot in advance.
Department of English,
Chinese University of Hong Kong
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