This paper explores the
grammaticalization of the verbal particle maai in Cantonese.
Originally a verb of movement meaning ‘approach/get close to’ a
reference point, maai has undergone grammaticalization to
become a directional particle meaning ‘towards’. It then developed
into an additive quantifier meaning ‘also/as well’, and has
further been reinterpreted as an evaluative marker, marking the
speaker’s negative evaluation of the object of the verb to which
maai is suffixed. A number of pragmatic processes are involved
in maai’s grammaticalization, in particular pragmatic
inferencing and subjectification. The evolutionary pathway
‘addition’ > ‘subjective evaluation’ is attested by historical data
and is also supported by cross-linguistic evidence.
directional particle, Cantonese, MAAI, grammaticalization,