Expletive Epenthesis in Hong Kong Cantonese

  • Nga Wing Olivia TAM

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Monosyllabic expletives (curse words) like diu2, lan2, kau1, ceon1 and hai1 are often inserted within utterances in daily colloquial conversations of Hong Kong Cantonese and there seems to be some patterns to the way they are used. For instance, among the five available slots we can put to ‘Ma-lay-si-a’, prefixing or suffixing the monosyllabic expletive to the quadrisyllabic translated name is not possible and the position between -si- and -a is not acceptable. We would like to know why is there such a preference to the insertion places. This dissertation aims to investigate Hong Kong Cantonese expletive epenthesis within the framework of Optimality Theory. Through analysing monomorphemes and polymorphemes with two to five syllables, the author provides an Optimally Theory analysis to explain the puzzle is the result of complex interactions of prosody, foot and syntax and can predict where the expletive can appear with five constraints.
Date of Award1 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLian Hee WEE (Supervisor)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Hong Kong Cantonese
  • Optimality Theory
  • Prosody
  • Alignment

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