Turning English into Cantonese: The Semantic Change of English Loanwords


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Wakefield describes English loanwords in Hong Kong Cantonese, explaining how their meanings have changed from what they originally were in English. He presents in detail a number of fascinating examples, such as the adjective ku1, which was borrowed from English’s “cool.” This word is typically used as a compliment in English to describe someone or something as fashionably attractive, while the borrowed version ku1 has a pejorative meaning, describing a person as distant or unfriendly. Another example is the loanword hep1pi2 (“happy”), which is an adjective that can additionally be used as a verb in Cantonese, meaning to do something that makes one happy, referring to anything from drinking with friends to having sex. Wakefield’s discussion of loanwords portrays some fascination consequences of language contact.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural Conflict in Hong Kong
Subtitle of host publicationAngles on a Coherent Imaginary
EditorsJason S. Polley, Vinton W. K. Poon, Lian-Hee Wee
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789811077661
ISBN (Print)9789811077654, 9789811339967
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Hong Kong Cantonese
  • Language contact
  • Lexical borrowing
  • Loanwords
  • Semantic change


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