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On Chinese Modal Particle A (啊)

A Pragmatic and Semantic Study

Ying Xian Ingrid Wang

Chinese modal particles feature prominently in Chinese people’s daily use of the language, but their pragmatic and semantic functions are elusive as commonly recognised by Chinese linguists and teachers of Chinese as a foreign language. This book originates from an extensive and intensive empirical study of the Chinese modal particle a (啊), one of the most frequently used modal particles in Mandarin Chinese. In order to capture all the uses and the underlying meanings of the particle, the author transcribed the first 20 episodes, about 20 hours in length, of the popular Chinese TV drama series Kewang ‘Expectations’, which yielded a corpus data of more than 142’000 Chinese characters with a total of 1829 instances of the particle all used in meaningful communicative situations. Within its context of use, every single occurrence of the particle was analysed in terms of its pragmatic and semantic contributions to the hosting utterance. Upon this basis the core meanings were identified which were seen as constituting the modal nature of the particle.

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List of Tables xiii

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xiii List of Tables For Chapter 2 Table 2.1 Variant forms of particle a ( ) ...................................... 9 Table 2.2 Opinions of particle a with declaratives ............................. 18 Table 2.3 Opinions of particle a with imperatives ............................ 21 Table 2.4 Opinions of particle a with interrogatives/questions .......... 29 Table 2.5 Summary of particle a in sentence-internal positions ........ 33 For Chapter 3 Table 3.1 Opinions of particle ne with interrogatives ........................ 48 For Chapter 4 Table 4.1 Particle a with five types of declarative utterances .......... 114 Table 4.2 Statistics on declaratives with particle a showing surprise ............................................................................. 129 Table 4.3 Pragmatics and semantics of particle a with declaratives ....................................................................... 130 For Chapter 5 Table 5.1 Statistics on imperatives with particle a in the volitive function ............................................................................. 153 Table 5.2 Summary of particle a in two different functions with imperatives ....................................................................... 166 For Chapter 6 Table 6.1 Qw-questions with particle a indicating strong inquisitive mood ............................................................... 184 Table 6.2 Qw-questions with particle a indicating strong dubitative mood ................................................................ 192 Table 6.3 Statistics on particle a with genuine qw-questions ........... 193 Table 6.4 RHM in frozen a-ending qw-rhetoricals .......................... 195 xiv Table 6.5 Statistics on dynamic a-ending qw-rhetoricals ................. 203 Table 6.6 Statistics on deliberate a-ending qw-questions ................ 206 Table 6.7 Statistics on a-ending qw-questions used as reproaches .. 214 Table 6.8 Summary of particle a with qw-questions ....................... 216 Table 6.9 Statistics on particle a with ch-questions ......................... 227 Table 6.10 Statistics on particle a with shi-bu-shi questions .............. 237 Table 6.11 Summary of a-suffixed yes-no questions ......................... 255 For Chapter 7 Table 7.1 Exclamatives with particle a showing speaker strong emotions ........................................................................... 268 Table...

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