THE PLACEMENT OF LOCATIVE PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES INCANTONESE: PROCESSING AND ICONICITY
Stella Wing-Man Kwan
Cantonese is unusual as a VO language in having [PP V] as the dominant order instead of [V PP]. Dryer (1992) found that VO order correlates strongly with [V PP] order. Hawkins (1994) offered an explanation in arguing that VO language and [V [PP P NP]] order can be processed with optimal processing efficiency. This paper investigates the reasons why Cantonese still employs the [PP V] order despite its lower processing efficiency. While [[PP P NP] V] order in Cantonese conforms to iconicity, the inefficiency of the [[PP P NP] V] order is circumvented due to the availability of the topic PP construction, which is shown to have higher processing efficiency when compared to [[PP P NP] V] by Hawkins’ (1994) metric of Early Immediate Constituents (EIC). Corpus findings show that the heavier the PP, the larger the percentage appearing in topic position. As I will argue, the topic PP construction which exhibits both iconicity and processing efficiency shows that the two seemingly competing functional motivations, iconicity and processing are compatible with each other.
Key words: Cantonese, prepositional phrase, word order, topic, iconicity, processing efficiency