The forms and meanings of English rising declaratives: Insights from cantonese

John Wakefield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The study reported in this paper exploited the existence of a pair of semantically related Cantonese question particles (mel and aa4) to learn more about the forms and meanings of the tones that mark declarative questions in English. First each particle was defined using Wierzbicka's (1996) natural semantic metalanguage (NSM). Cantonese-to-English translations were then elicited from native-bilinguals to discover the English-equivalent forms of the particles. The NSM explications proposed for mel and aa4 are hypothesized to apply equally to their English-equivalent forms. The results of this study provide empirical evidence that suggests there are at least two forms of rising declaratives in English with distinct meanings. It is argued that high-rising (but not mid-rising) declaratives express a prior belief in the negative form of their propositional content. The conclusions of this study add some significant and meaningful details to Gunlogson's (2003) study, which, as far as the author knows, is the most thorough treatment of the meaning of rising declaratives to date.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-149
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of Chinese Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • Cantonese question particles
  • Queclaratives me1 aa4
  • Rising declaratives
  • Sentence-final particles


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