Sentence final particles in Shanghainese: Navigating the left periphery

Ethan C Myers, Purdue University


The purpose of the present study was to provide a modern syntactic analysis of Shanghainese, the regional language spoken in Shanghai, China. While Shanghainese has received significantly less exposure in the published literature compared to other regional counterparts, there is much that the language can contribute to the overall study of human language. In spite of the fact that Shanghainese has been experiencing a decline in first language learners in recent generations, this thesis aims to increase its exposure in the academic discourse and enforce the legitimacy of its standing as a distinct, living language and as a valuable piece of cultural identity that belongs to the people of Shanghai. This exposure will be specifically limited to the language’s inventory and treatment of a class of lexical items known as sentence-final particles, which encode discourse material and information about the speaker’s subjective states (e.g. surprise or assumption). These particles have been analyzed in detail in several languages by postulating the presence of rich functional fields at the upper periphery of a language’s syntactic structure. In a joint effort to introduce Shanghainese to the academic discourse and to test claims about hypothetical universal structures in an empirical fashion, this study developed two tasks to test some hypotheses about the functional field.




Francis, Purdue University.

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