A functional development of the aspectual suffix gan in Cantonese

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Like many Chinese dialects, Cantonese marks its aspects with verbal suffixes. Traditionally gan is classified as a progressive aspect marker, signaling “an ongoing action”.

That gan has extended its functions beyond the traditional definition of marking a progressive can be observed in the language among younger speakers in Hong Kong. For example, while the notion of “wearing something” or “having put on something” would have to be marked by zyu, the durative aspect, in old Cantonese: zoek zyu, a preferable alternative now is gan: zoek gan. This durative-like function of gan has been increasingly found in the 21st century materials, which suggests that this is a relatively recent phenomenon.

We propose to classify this new use of gan as a resultative function, which should be differentiated from the durative use of zyu. Combing through data in the 20th and 21st centuries, this study aims to examine gan to offer an analysis that accounts for this resultative function as a derivative from the core notion of progressiveness. Copyright © 2010 LSHK-ARF.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


Kataoka, S. (2010, December). A functional development of the aspectual suffix gan in Cantonese. Paper presented at 2010 Annual Research Forum of the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (LSHK-ARF 2010), The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


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