唔好客氣 vs. 咪走寶: A corpus-based study of Cantonese prohibitive markers

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

This paper examines the prohibitive markers 咪 and 唔好 in Cantonese. Prohibitive refers to the negative form of imperative through which the speaker asks/orders the addressee not to do something. Some idiomatic phrases expressing prohibitive in Cantonese include 咪走寶 (lit.: don’t miss it) and 唔好客氣 (lit: don’t be polite).
Van der Auwera (2006) finds that in most world languages, the negation marker of prohibitive is not necessarily the same as the ordinary negation marker. For example, in Modern Standard Chinese, 別 and 不要 are prohibitive markers while 不 is the ordinary negation marker. Based on Matthews & Yip (1994), van der Auwera (2006) claims that Cantonese also shows differences in the negation markers for the two constructions: 咪/唔好 vs. 唔. English, as well as those languages in West Europe, on the other hand, shows no difference for the two types of negation markers, i.e. don’t is used.
Cantonese dictionaries such as Rao, Ouyang and Zhou (2012) and reference materials on Cantonese grammar such as Matthews and Yip (1994/2011), Yip and Matthews (2017) and Tang (2015) list 咪 and 唔好 as the prohibitive markers. However no detail was given on their similarities and differences in terms of usage. They are treated as synonyms which can be used interchangeably. Some Cantonese learning materials published recently only have the prohibitive marker 唔好 but not 咪.
With reference to the above observations, this paper offers a preliminary examination of the two prohibitive markers in Cantonese based on the corpus data drawn from the second phase of The Corpus of Mid-20th Century Hong Kong Cantonese which has about 635,000 characters.
There is a significant difference in frequency between 咪 and 唔好, with the former occurring 670 times while the latter close to 1,500. In addition to usage frequency, we will also compare the two markers in terms of their collocation with verbs (or predicates), as well as sentence final particles. From the corpus data, we also observe a pattern in which 咪 and 唔好 always occurs. Copyright © 2018 The 18th Workshop on Cantonese.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Citation

Chin, A. C.-O. (2018, April). 唔好客氣 vs. 咪走寶: A corpus-based study of Cantonese prohibitive markers. Paper presented at The Eighteen Workshop on Cantonese (WOC-18): Cantonese idiomatic expressions, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.

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