A Unified Study of Verbal and Adjectival -haa5 in Cantonese

-Haa5 (吓) ‘a bit’ is a frequently used affix attached to verbal and adjectival phrases in Cantonese. The investigation of the distributions, grammatical properties and functions of -haa5 reveals that all usages of -haa5 are derived from its original meaning ‘a stroke, a bit, or a tiny amount’. The distributions of -haa5 are highly restricted: predicates eligible to co-occur with –haa5 are verbs/adjectives with an innate event/degree argument, excluding those whose semantics are of extreme/polarity reading. The function of -haa5 is to delimit events when following verb phrases (henceforth VPs) and make slight adjustments of degree when attached to adjective phrases (henceforth APs). Moreover, -haa5 is of the function of subjectivity encoding. -Haa5 has been grammaticalized from a verb classifier, event delimiter/degree adjuster to a subjectivity marker and is syntactically at the left periphery of the extended projection of predicative lexical categories.

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