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Constructional Borrowing From English in Hong Kong Cantonese
Chan, Brian Hok-Shing
Source PublicationFrontiers in Communication

Previous research on Cantonese-English contact in Hong Kong has focused on lexical phenomena, primarily lexical borrowing and intra-sentential, single-word code-switching (or code-mixing). Although code-switching may also involve longer English phrases, the English elements are mostly inserted into Cantonese-framed sentences in accordance with the Matrix Language Frame/MLF Model. In other words, the syntax of Cantonese appears to be largely intact despite words or phrases drawn from English. This paper underscores that in fact English syntax can be melded more intricately with lexis from both Cantonese and English, thus defying the MLF Model; however, recurrent cases are limited to three constructions so far, namely, the which-relative, the English PP-postmodifier, and an [NP COP P NP] sequence with an English preposition. A re-examination of these three constructions reveals that, rather than linguistic economy, they are semantically and pragmatically motivated to convey some specific meaning. Moreover, all these constructions are lexico-syntactic in the sense that they prototypically contain an English word, namely, the relativizer which, an English noun and an English preposition, respectively. Accordingly, these cases can also be treated as code-switching, though structural borrowing better captures the fact that some English syntactic structure is transferred. In line with Construction Grammar, these constructions are better understood as constructional borrowing in which each construction as a whole—composed of not only words from Cantonese and English but also a syntactic structure—conveys specific meaning. As for why such cases of structural or constructional borrowing are limited or partial, this paper suggests that it is more due to a soft constraint that separates English and Cantonese grammars—Hong Kong speakers still tend to convey a sense that they speak Cantonese among themselves—although they draw on linguistic resources from English. In this light, the Borrowability Hierarchy may be recast as a continuum of language separation and fluidity, which offers a more nuanced view to translanguaging.

KeywordCantonese-english Contact Code-mixing/code-switching Constructional Borrowing Lexical Borrowing Structural Borrowing Translanguaging
Indexed ByESCI
WOS Research AreaCommunication
WOS SubjectCommunication
WOS IDWOS:000806292100001
PublisherFrontiers Media SA Avenue du Tribunal Fédéral 34 1005 Lausanne Switzerland
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Document TypeJournal article
CollectionFaculty of Arts and Humanities
Corresponding AuthorChan, Brian Hok-Shing
AffiliationThe University of Macau
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GB/T 7714
Chan, Brian Hok-Shing. Constructional Borrowing From English in Hong Kong Cantonese[J]. Frontiers in Communication,2022,7:1-13.
APA Chan, Brian Hok-Shing.(2022).Constructional Borrowing From English in Hong Kong Cantonese.Frontiers in Communication,7,1-13.
MLA Chan, Brian Hok-Shing."Constructional Borrowing From English in Hong Kong Cantonese".Frontiers in Communication 7(2022):1-13.
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