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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.

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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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