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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Chinese personal pronouns

Last time I mentioned a particular usage which was possible in Cantonese but not in Mandarin, namely the use of the locative particle -度 to denote PLACE after names and nouns (e.g. 學校-度 ‘at school’, 朋友-度 ‘at a friend’s’). There is another correspondence between Mandarin and Cantonese, namely the pronominal plural marker -們 and -哋 respectively, which productively mark plural number in personal pronouns. However, while in Mandarin it is possible to use -們 after nouns, this is absolutely forbidden in Cantonese e.g.

Mandarin:                                  Cantonese:

朋友-們                                         *朋友-哋

friend-PL                                    friend-PL

‘friends’                                      ‘friends’

同志-們                                         *同志-哋

comrade-PL                               comrade-PL

‘comrades’                                  comrades’

孩子-們                                        *細路-哋

children-PL                               child-PL

‘children’                                   ‘children’

In Cantonese, one has to express plural number via other means e.g. plural determiners, which are unique to Cantonese:










Another case of microparametric variation between Chinese dialects. Looks like Mandarin has had its ‘revenge’ on Cantonese by having this little function which is absent in most southern dialects. This goes to show how ‘competitive’ Chinese dialects can be. But without competition there can be no excellence, which is why Chinese dialects are excellent indeed.

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