Acknowledgements to the second edition of Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar

This grammar had its beginning in a serendipitous encounter. On his arrival in Hong Kong in 1990, the first author Stephen Matthews was keen to learn to speak Cantonese which is the language of the community and the native language of the second author (Virginia Yip, his wife). At the time the only available Cantonese grammar was one written in Chinese by Samuel Cheung Hung-Nin (1972). Though an important landmark grammar, he was not able to benefit from it due to his lack of a reading knowledge of Chinese. After a futile search for a grammar of Cantonese written in English, and frustrated by the lack of systematic coverage of grammar in language courses, he decided to write one himself. This is the story of the birth of the first edition of Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar.

Thinking about, and rethinking, Cantonese grammar has been a great source of inspiration over the years. In the post-1997 era, interest in the Cantonese language has continued to grow and remain strong as learners from all walks of life and professionals across many disciplines increasingly recognize the importance of Cantonese and its grammar in serving different purposes.

We have had the good fortune of working with two talented and dedicated student scholars as research assistants. Jackson Lee’s expertise in phonology and linguistic theory and avid interest in all things Cantonese are greatly appreciated. We thank him especially for his dynamism and innovative ideas for the multimedia website that supports this new edition. Alfred Jones provided keen observations as a native speaker and fan of the language. Jackson and Alfred’s superb IT skills have made all the difference in the production of this second edition. Their intuitions and colourful use of Cantonese trendy language provide us with the link to the liveliness and vivacity of young people’s use of language in every day life. Hearing it spoken by them makes us feel the pulse of the young speakers.

We have benefitted from working with graduate students at the University of Hong Kong, especially Andrew Chau, Chen Ee San, Antonio Cheung, Ritty Choi, Stella Kwan, Elaine Lau, Tommi Leung, Michelle Li, Richard Wong and Emily Yiu. Members of the Childhood Bilingualism Research Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who have supported our work on Cantonese grammar include Angel Chan, Uta Lam, Kelly Shum, Eunice Wong, Hinny Wong and Reace Wong.

We thank our readers who have written to us from around the globe, letting us know how our grammar made a difference in their learning of the Cantonese language. Their enthusiastic responses and appreciation have provided the fuel to forge ahead with the conviction that our work will benefit a wide spectrum of users in unimaginable ways. The wide adoption and use of the Grammar by specialists and learners of the language has been most rewarding and gratifying to us. We would also like to express our deep gratitude to the scholars who wrote reviews of the first edition: Hugh Baker, Gisela Bruche-Schulz, Marjorie Chan, Samuel Cheung Hung-Nin, Alain Peyraube and Jeroen Wiedenhof. Their constructive comments have led to many improvements.

Research for this revised edition has been fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (‘Rethinking Cantonese grammar: typology, processing and acquisition’, Project reference HKU 748207H). Support for the second edition from the professional team at Routledge is hereby gratefully acknowledged.

The last two decades have seen the rapid growth of scholarship in Cantonese linguistics. In addition to those we acknowledge in the first edition’s acknowledgements, we would like to include a new generation of researchers who have given impetus to Cantonese grammar: Ben Au Yeung, Lisa Cheng, Candice Cheung, Lawrence Cheung, Andy Chin, Kwok Bit Chee, Shin Kataoka, Peppina Lee, Rint Sybesma and Carine Yiu. We pay collective tribute to each and every researcher who has enriched our understanding of how Cantonese works. Finally, we hope that just as our own appreciation of Cantonese has increased by leaps and bounds as a result of much musing on its various intriguing properties and structures, so will any native or second language speaker’s appreciation of the language. The grammar of Cantonese will no doubt continue to surprise and fascinate us, and hopefully our readers too.

It is our hope that not only our own children Timothy, Sophie and Alicia appreciate Cantonese as part of their bilingual heritage, but children around the world who are raised to speak Cantonese also cherish their heritage and pass it on to the next generation.


Stephen Matthews and Virginia Yip
Hong Kong
September 2010