This course aims to provide students with a basic understanding of Cantonese, the lingua franca
of Hong Kong and its neighbours, namely Guangdong, Guangxi and Macau, through examining various issues in Cantonese grammar and Cantonese culture reflected in real life situations. It aims to enhance students’ ability to apply and discover techniques required to analyze Cantonese as a language system used by a speech community. Emphases are put on the following respects.
- From a cultural perspective, the course aims to cultivate students’ sensitivity toward languages in general, through examining the use of Cantonese in society, with emphases put on the following respects: acquisition of the ability to (i) describe the cultural phenomena in Hong Kong; and (ii) discover linguistic variations and innovations from a social and dialectal perspective.
- From a historical perspective, the course enhances students’ ability to describe (i) the history and distribution of Cantonese in the map of dialects/languages spoken in China; and (ii) the sound and writing systems of Cantonese, from early Cantonese to modern Cantonese.
- From a grammatical perspective, the course puts emphasis on the acquisition of basic knowledge of (i) the word formation in Cantonese and relevant lexical properties; (ii) rules forming structural units in Cantonese and how phrases and sentences are formed; and (iii) the rich repertoire of verbal particles and sentence-final particles in Cantonese, and how these particles contribute to sentence meaning.
- From a contrastive perspective, it aims to engage students in a critical discussion about how Cantonese is distinct from Putonghua/Modern Standard Chinese and English regarding the two perspectives above, and in what ways these differences influence their language learning.
The ultimate aim of the course is to foster in students the capacity for self-directed learning towards specific language and cultural phenomena in Cantonese, and to raise their sensitivity towards languages, be it their own languages and/or other languages/dialects. Moreover, by applying a general grammatical framework to analyze language, it aims to stimulate students to think anew about their own languages and/or dialects, and to discover and formulate language-related rules through the critical thinking skills acquired from the course.