Vol. 1:2 (2020) ► pp.251–277
Mechanisms of semantic change
The case of Cantonese slang
This paper examines the mechanisms of semantic change in the creation of ten Cantonese slang words. It demonstrates with synchronic evidence that metaphorization, metonymization and (inter)subjectification are three principal driving forces behind the shift in meaning. It is argued that Traugott and Dasher’s (2002) Invited Inferencing Theory of Semantic Change (IITSC), initially proposed for and widely used in the context of grammaticalization, is equally useful for the study of neologisms – in this case, the relatively recent slang expressions in Cantonese. These monosyllabic lexemes are shown to have followed the same unidirectional pathway of semantic change – that is, the shift from non-subjective meaning to encoded (inter)subjective meaning – outlined in their model of semantic change.
- 2.Metaphorization and metonymization
- 3.Subjectification and intersubjectification