The use of utterance particles as assessment resources in Cantonese conversation


  • Ricardo Moutinho University of Macau
  • Weng I Lao University of Macau



utterance particles, assessment, epistemic position, cantonese


It has been reported in the literature that each language has very particular resourcesthat show how participants mark their epistemic positions (Hayano, 2011;Iwasaki & Yap, 2015; Kärkkäinen, 2003, 2007; Thompson, 2002). Our main objectivein this article is to discuss and explicate the use of these resources in a conversationcarried out by young adults in Cantonese. We discuss how conversationalistsmark and manage their epistemic positions through assessment devices carried outby certain utterance particles (? ma, ge, and gám) and other combining resources(such as use of first person plural pronouns, modal adverbs, and tag questions). Todo so, we focus on the competition of rights to make assessments, turn design, andthe sequential positioning of each participant during the interaction. Our resultsshow that participants always search for ratification of their assessments and thatthe use of the three particles analysed herein play a fundamental role in this process.This work seeks to contribute to other studies that have analysed specific resourcesthat participants use when claiming or defeating rights during the evaluation processof a matter at hand in languages other than English.

Author Biographies

Ricardo Moutinho, University of Macau

Ricardo Moutinho is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University ofMacau. He holds a bachelor's degree in Language and Literature, a master's degreein Applied Linguistics and a PhD in Interactional Sociolinguistics. Dr Moutinhois currently working on his two new research projects, 'Enhancing QualitativeResearch on Language and Social Interaction' and 'Investigating Guided-TourInteractions in Astronomical Observatories'. He has published more than thirtyarticles, six chapters, two books and has organised two special issues of journalsspecialising in Applied Linguistics. His research interests include 'Sequential andCategorial Analysis of Interaction' and 'Epistemic Marking in Ordinary and InstitutionalConversations'.

Weng I Lao, University of Macau

Weng I Lao is a Research Assistant at the University of Macau. She holds a bachelor'sdegree in Language and Literature and a master's degree in Applied Linguistics.Ms Lao works with utterance particles in Cantonese conversation bycollecting and interpreting data from different interactional environments. She isalso a member of the Hong Kong Macau Research Group on Ethnomethodologyand Conversation Analysis.


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How to Cite

Moutinho, R., & Lao, W. I. (2019). The use of utterance particles as assessment resources in Cantonese conversation. East Asian Pragmatics, 4(2), 191–215.