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.
- Chinese dialect
- polytomous logistic regression
- statistical analysis
- topic marking