A Study of the Cantonese Hearsay Particle wo from a Tonal Perspective

Wai-Mun Leung


Cantonese is a tone language very rich in sentence-final particles which express moods and attitudes. Some of them are identical in phonetic segments but different in lexical tones. This paper discusses a pair of such SFPs in Cantonese, wo3 and wo5, the former has been in use for a long time and its function has altered from indicating hearsay to unexpectedness and noteworthiness, while the latter is not found in the earlier literature and its only function is to express hearsay information. By reviewing the development of Chinese phonology and present-day Cantonese phonology, hypotheses are proposed in this paper to explain the reason why the tone of the hearsay wo would be tone 5 instead of the other tones when there are six contrastive lexical tones in Hong Kong Cantonese.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v1i1.204

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email: ijl@macrothink.org

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