Tse, S. K., Li, H., & Leung, S. O. (2007). The acquisition of Cantonese classifiers by preschool children in Hong Kong. Journal of Child Language, 34(3), 495-517. DOI: 10.1017/S0305000906007975.
The acquisition of Cantonese classifiers by preschool children in Hong Kong
Journal of Child Language
Shek Kam TSE, Hui LI, Shing On LEUNG
The Cantonese language has a complex classifier system and young learners need to pay attention to both the semantics and syntax of classifiers. This study investigated the repertoire of classifiers produced by 492 Cantonese-speaking preschoolers in three age groups (3;0, 4;0 and 5;0). Spontaneous utterances produced in 30-minute toy-play contexts were collected and transcribed. Analyses identified a productive repertoire of 73 classifiers in the utterances, which could be appropriately classified into the typology proposed in the present study. An age-related increase in the number of classifier types per child as well as the repertoire size of each group was found. 個 go3 (CL) was widely used as the general classifier by the young children. It was also discovered that the three-year-olds were already showing signs of grasping the basic syntax of classifiers. Cognitive, linguistic and contextual influences presumed to shape the evidence are discussed.