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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

This study examines path encoding in motion event expression in Toronto Heritage Cantonese using a variationist sociolinguistic methodology informed by studies on the typology of motion events (Talmy 2000). Cantonese inherently exhibits some variability in that both satellite-framing and verb-framing strategies of path encoding are grammatical and natural (Yiu 2014). Work on motion events in bilinguals suggest that typologically different languages may have crosslinguistic effects on motion event expression (Filipović 2011, Brown and Gullberg 2008, Wang and Wei 2019, among others). In light of this body of work, I investigate the linguistic and social factors that are relevant to the variation seen in Toronto Heritage Cantonese and Hong Kong Cantonese, the homeland variety. Spontaneous speech from 23 sociolinguistic interviews from the Heritage Language Documentation Corpus (Nagy 2011) is analyzed by extracting all relevant examples of motion event expression (n = 1991). Intergenerational and diatopic comparisons are made using comparative variationist methods. The results suggest stable variation in the homeland speakers, but change among the heritage speakers, which cannot be attributed to simplification or contact with English.

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