About the seminar

This study aims at capturing the secondary grammaticalization of subordinator yat1 in Cantonese, from an immediate anteriority (“as soon as”) to contingency (“whenever”) function. This is achieved by collecting data from a wide range of corpora from early Cantonese, which started at around the 1800s, to modern Cantonese. This study follows Heine’s (2002) theories of grammaticalization stages and identifies the bridging context of the extension, i.e. examples which the target function is implied alongside with a source function; and its switch context, i.e. examples which the target function is the only available reading while the source function is backgrounded.

Whether the contingency function is a contextual use or developed sense can be detected by the cancellation test, that is, by adding contradictory information to the example. If the change results in an ungrammatical and infelicitous reading, a function is considered a developed sense. If not, it retains the status of an implicature rather than a conventionalized sense. The cancellation test employed in this study is the addition of one-off event which is not compatible with the contingency sense.

  For bridging contexts, ample examples in early Cantonese indicate that when the event P is an inchoative point of a [+durative] predicate without an overt inchoative marker, a CONTIN use is implied. For switch contexts, two sets of examples can be attested in modern Cantonese: (a) the addition of adverbial phrase 以前 ji5cin4 “before” in the subordinate clause; (b) a generic sentence which the individual-level stative predicate indicates a permanent feature of a generic/indefinite subject in the subordinate clause. For (a), the event P has lost its event status and has become a reference time which is not compatible with IMANTE function because the reference time temporally overlaps with event Q as opposed to forming a temporal sequence. For (b), an individual-level stative predicate indicates a permanent feature of a generic/indefinite subject, indicating a “timeless” statement which holds true at all times, i.e. CONTIN.

  From a linguistic viewpoint, this study can pave the way for other linguists to study analogous constructions in other languages. There is work focusing anteriority and posteriority, e.g. “before” and “after” (Haspelmath, 1997; Hetterle, 2015), whereas an immediate anteriority is represented by limited work (Kortmann, 1997; Heine & Kuteva, 2002). Hence, its (secondary) grammaticalization is also an understudied area. This study helps linguists predict the grammaticalization path in other languages such as Muylaq’ Aymara (Coler, 2014) and Guìqióng (Jiang, 2015).


Coler, M. (2014). A grammar of Muylaq' Aymara. Brill. Haspelmath, M. (1997). From space to time: Temporal adverbials in the world's languages. Lincom Europa. Heine, B., & Kuteva, T. (2002). World Lexicon of Grammaticalization. Cambridge. University Press. Heine, B. (2002). On the Role of Context in Grammaticalization. In I. Wischer & G. Diewald (Eds.), New Reflections on Grammaticalization. (PP. 83-101). John Benjamins. Hetterle, K. (2015). Adverbial clauses in cross-linguistic perspective. De Gruyter Mouton. Jiang, L. (2015). A grammar of Guìqióng. Brill.

About the speaker

Pun Ho Lui completed a BA majoring in linguistics at the University of Queensland in 2021. This year he has been working on an honor thesis titled Secondary Grammaticalization of an Immediate Anteriority Marker in Cantonese under the supervision of Dr. Kari Sullivan.

Pun Ho Lui's research interests are linguistic typology, language change, general linguistics, morphology and Cantonese linguistics. He gave a talk regarding the thesis topic in the 6th Workshop on Innovations in Cantonese Linguistics (WICL-6). He is currently a reviewer of Linguistic Typology at the Crossroads.

About Linguistics Seminar Series

The Linguistics Seminars are an opportunity to hear from guest speakers, UQ staff and HDR students working on topics of interest in Linguistics, Language Revitalisation and Applied Linguistics. If you would like to present in our series, please contact Linguistics Cluster Co-ordinator, Samantha Disbray.

Seminars are generally held fortnightly during semester on Friday afternoons, and are free to attend. UQ staff and students, staff and students from other universities, and members of the general public are welcome to attend. If you would like to receive invitations to our Linguistics Seminar Series, please complete this form.


Gordon Greenwood (32) Room 309 or Via Zoom