Essentials and Valuables: Cultural conceptualizations of Cantonese rice idioms

Eve J. Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Rice has a long history of being the staple grain for the Cantonese communities. The prominence of rice is also captured in the abundance of rice-related idioms in the Cantonese vernacular. Within the theoretical and analytical framework of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2017), this chapter examines the cultural conceptualizations underlying Cantonese food idioms that contain the rice-related keywords mai, faan, and zuk, and discusses the extent of idiomaticity of these idioms from a Cantonese speakers' perspective. The analyzed idioms are collected from eight dictionaries and reference books of Cantonese colloquial expressions mostly published within the last two decades and screened through an online survey participated by 147 Cantonese speakers from Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macau. The study discovers that Cantonese speakers often conceptualize various types of essentials and valuables through the domain of rice. Specific-level elaborations of these conceptualizations are embedded in distinctive rice idioms. Furthermore, through exploring the speakers' degree of consciousness about the identified cultural conceptualizations, the extent of idiomaticity the speakers perceive of the idioms is discussed. In all, the chapter concludes that Cantonese rice idioms are instantiations of a complex and dynamic system of culturally constructed conceptualizations that reflect both the Cantonese worldviews and the rhetorical creativity of the Cantonese speakers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCognitive Linguistic Studies in Cultural Contexts
    PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
    Number of pages29
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Publication series

    NameCognitive Linguistic Studies in Cultural Contexts
    ISSN (Print)1879-8047


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