Gender difference in the occurrence of Cantonese sentence-final particles across lifespan


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Sentence-final particles (SFPs) occur at the end of a sentence and convey subtle sentential connotations related to linguistic modality, register or other pragmatic effects, which are an optional component of a sentence. SFPs have been extensively studied in the field of linguistics, focusing on syntax, semantics, or pragmatics. The influence of social factors (such as gender and age) on the occurrence of SFPs was neglected previously. This study filled this research gap and investigated the occurrence of Cantonese SFP from a sociolinguistic perspective, focusing on the gender differences across lifespan. We collected audio recordings of semi-formal interviews from online resources of TV interview programmes since 2010s, with the speakers’ age and gender information being traceable. The subject pool consisted of 60 Hong Kong Cantonese speakers, who were of three age groups: Old (age > 60), Middle-aged (age of 40~59), and Young (age of 18~39), with 10 males and 10 females in each age group. For each speaker, 1.5 minutes of his/her speech (other’s speech was cut off) were selected as a sample for analysis. SFP occurrence percentage was calculated as the percentage of sentences with SFPs over the total number of sentences produced by a certain speaker. As shown in Fig. 1, SFP occurrence percentage declines when people ages; while across all generations, females have higher frequencies compared with males, i.e., females tend to use SFPs more frequently than their male peers. Univariate Analysis of Variance within the General Linear Model was conducted, which verified that both age and gender have significant between-subject effects (p > 0.05). More detailed analysis shows that there are gender preferences for specific SFP items, e.g., males prefer SFPs with Tone 3 while females prefer SFPs with Tone 1. Possible reasons for these gender differences of SFPs were discussed. Copyright © 2020 International Conference on Gender, Language and Education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


Zhang, L., & Zhuang, Z. (2020, December). Gender difference in the occurrence of Cantonese sentence-final particles across lifespan. Paper presented at International Conference on Gender, Language and Education (ICGLE), The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


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