Cantonese speakers acquiring L2 Mandarin semantic operators

Cantonese and Mandarin are two closely related languages/dialects. Bilingual speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin mostly reside in southern China (Guangdong province) and in Hong Kong. They often have Cantonese as their native language and acquire Mandarin as a second language, while vary in age of first exposure as well as the amount of input.

One intriguing difference between Mandarin and Cantonese is the use of semantic operators. One semantic operator, ‘dou1′(都), is a cognate that can be found in both languages. It can be either universal/distributive (meaning ‘all/each’) or additive (meaning ‘also’) in Cantonese, but only carries the universal/distributive meaning in Mandarin, and the additive meaning is carried by a distinct operator, ‘ye3′(也).

Can Cantonese speakers map the dual semantic functions of Cantonese ‘dou1’ correctly onto Mandarin ‘dou1’ and ‘ye3’? Will age of acquisition affect their performance? Find out more in the manuscript 🙂

Cheng, Q. & Tang, G. (2016). On the L2 Ultimate Attainment of Mandarin Additive and Distributive Operators by Cantonese Learners. In Proceedings of the 13th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2015), ed. David Stringer et al., 31-44. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. [pdf]

Cheng, Q. & Tang, G. (2013, Jun). The second language acquisition of additive focus operators: A study on Cantonese learners acquiring Mandarin additive ‘ye3’. Oral presentation at The 21st annual conference of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics, Taipei, National Taiwan Normal University.