On loanword truncation in Cantonese

Kang-kwong LUKE, Chaak Ming LAU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In spite of a powerful preference for bisyllabicity identified in previous research on loanword truncation in Cantonese, more new forms are increasingly found which have been truncated down to a monosyllable. An examination of a 1,400-word corpus of Cantonese loanwords collected over a span of 50 years reveals a significant increase in the number of loan verbs and adjectives in more recent times, as opposed to the almost exclusive adoption of nouns previously. Verbs, as opposed to nouns, are found to be much more prone to undergoing “monosyllabic truncation.” This is found to stem from an asymmetry between nouns and verbs in the native language. A preference for monosyllabicity, particularly in the case of verbs and adjectives, is confirmed via a study of a Cantonese translation of the Swadesh word list. A further investigation of a corpus of everyday conversations uncovers lexical statistics that may have been mirrored in the truncation process. Finally, the greater readiness for the importation of verbs in more recent times is explained in terms of Haugen’s “stages of bilingualism.” Copyright © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-362
JournalJournal of East Asian Linguistics
Issue number4
Early online date09 Sept 2008
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


Luke, K.-K., & Lau, C.-M. (2008). On loanword truncation in Cantonese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 17(4), 347-362. doi: 10.1007/s10831-008-9032-x


  • Loanword phonology
  • Truncation
  • Cantonese
  • Word length
  • Noun–verb asymmetry


Dive into the research topics of 'On loanword truncation in Cantonese'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.