Open Access

Converbs and Adverbial Clauses: A Case Study in Cantonese

   | Feb 07, 2023


This paper investigates an understudied topic in adverbial clauses, converbs, which are verb forms that mark adverbial subordination. Focusing on converbal clauses in Cantonese, I show that they do not share a uniform syntax and should be divided into two classes, formed by central converbs (such as conditional clauses formed by V-can1) and peripheral converbs (such as inferential clauses formed by V-dak1) respectively. The central class adjoins low to the event/proposition level projections of the main clauses and has an impoverished internal structure, whereas the peripheral class attaches high to the discourse level projections of the main clauses and has an articulated internal structure. The distinction displays remarkable parallelism with the central-peripheral dichotomy of adverbial clauses proposed by Haegeman (2003a, 2003b, 2010), calling for a unified syntax of adverbial clauses formed by converbs and by subordinators, which is achievable under an agreement analysis of converbs.