Topic marking in a Shanghainese corpus: From observation to prediction

Weifeng Han, Antti Arppe, John Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Shanghainese is an extremely topic-prominent language with many topic markers in competition with one another, often without any obvious basis for the selection of one topic marker over another. We explore the influence of five variables on the five most frequent topic markers in a corpus of (spoken) Shanghainese: topic length, syntactic category of the topic, function of the topic, comment type, and genre. We carry out a multivariate statistical analysis of the data, relying on a polytomous logistic regression model. Our approach leads to a satisfying quantification of the role of each factor, as well as an estimate of the probabilities of combinations of factors, in influencing the choice of topic marker. This study serves simultaneously as an introduction to the polytomous package (Arppe 2013) in the statistical software package R.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-319
Number of pages29
JournalCorpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese dialect
  • polytomous logistic regression
  • probabilities
  • Shanghainese
  • statistical analysis
  • topic marking

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