Haplology and lexical entries

a study based on cross-linguistic data from Sinitic languages


  • Sicong Dong Harbin Institute of Technology
  • Sam Yin Wong The Hong Kong Polytechnic University




Haplology, Sinitic languages, Inclusion of words, Frequency, Tone sandhi, Syllabicity


Haplology is the operation of omitting one of two adjacent linguistic units. It is typically optional but has a wide range of preferences showing both lexical and regional variations. In addition, haplology may or may not lead to meaning change. Hence it is a challenging lexicographical task to decide on whether to list both haplology and non-haplology forms as separate entries or to list only one form. We propose in this paper a framework for the inclusion of Chinese haplology forms based on a comparative study of Taiwan Mandarin and Hong Kong Cantonese. We found that the three constraints on compound haplology, i.e., frequency, tone sandhi and syllabicity, function diferently in the two languages in the way that they have diferent strength rankings. It is ‘frequency>tone sandhi>syllabicity’ in Taiwan Mandarin, and ‘tone sandhi>frequency>syllabicity’ in Hong Kong Cantonese. We demonstrated that such ranking diference underlies preferences for the haplology or non-haplology forms of various compounds, thus serves as one crucial criterion for the acceptability of haplology forms. We then classifed haplology forms by three parameters, i.e., lexicality, denotation and acceptability. For each type of haplology forms, we ofered specifc guidelines on the inclusion or exclusion of them in dictionaries and related standardisation suggestions. Within our framework, for a haplology form to appear in dictionaries, it must be a lexical item which also has higher acceptability than its full form and/or denotes a diferent concept from its full form.


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How to Cite

Dong, S., & Wong, S. Y. (2020). Haplology and lexical entries: a study based on cross-linguistic data from Sinitic languages. Lexicography, 7(1-2), 59–77. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40607-020-00062-1