Production of Cantonese classifiers in young heritage speakers and majority language speakers

Ting Yan Rachel KAN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

Aims and Objectives: This study investigated the production of classifiers in two groups of bilingual speakers: young heritage speakers of Cantonese in the USA and peers in Hong Kong, where Cantonese is the majority language. The role of language background factors in the heritage speakers' performance was also examined.

Methodology: The participants included 72 heritage speakers (3;10–11;3) and 61 majority language speakers (5;3–12;4). A picture-naming task was used to elicit the production of noun phrases containing six different target classifiers. A language background questionnaire was administered.

Data and Analysis: The participants' production was scored in terms of whether a classifier was produced in each obligatory context, and whether an appropriate form of classifier was used. The scores were analysed using multiple regression.

Findings: Both groups were able to produce a classifier where required, but the heritage speakers were less accurate in selecting the appropriate classifier. There was a large range of abilities among the heritage speakers, and those with more Cantonese experience and a later age of arrival obtained higher scores.

Originality: This study found both similarities and differences between heritage speakers and majority language speakers, and identified a potential trend of development in heritage speakers after age 10.

Significance/Implications: This study showed that the classifier is acquired in heritage speakers, but its functional scope was narrowed to cover only grammatical function. Copyright © 2018 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1531-1548
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Volume23
Issue number6
Early online dateNov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Citation

Kan, R. T. Y. (2019). Production of Cantonese classifiers in young heritage speakers and majority language speakers. International Journal of Bilingualism, 23(6), 1531-1548. doi: 10.1177/1367006918808002

Keywords

  • Classifiers
  • Cantonese
  • Heritage language
  • Bilingual development
  • Language acquisition

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