Expression of refusals in child Cantonese

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The use of refusal by children is common. Different from the expression of request, refusal is a secondary act used in response to another speech act such as request, offer and invitation, The study by Beebe and her colleagues (1990) on refusals in Japanese EFL learners provided a detailed framework in analyzing refusals. Despite numerous studies on the speech act of request, research on children's refusal strategies is scarce. In this study, we presented findings from a project on the use of refusal strategies by young Cantonese-speacking children in Hong Kong. A total of 60 children (age 3 and 5, half boys and half girls) were asked to participate in a role-play task using toys and puppets in different scenarios. Data elicited were audio and video-recorded, and later transcribed for analysis. Results show that children as young as age 3 were able to use the direct strategy of "No" or "Negated willingness/ability" to refuse. As age increases, more indirect strategies were used. For older, children, the inclusion of reason or explanation is also commonly found. More details on linguistic devices used and comparison with related studies done in Mandarin Chinese children will be further discussed at the presentation.

Source Publication

15th International Pragmatics Conference, 16-21 July 2017, at Ulster University, Belfast

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