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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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Abbreviations and Symbols Used in Glosses and Transcribed Sentences xv


xv Abbreviations and Symbols Used in Glosses and Transcribed Sentences ASP aspect particle after a predicative verb or adjective, i.e. -le ( ), -zhe ( ), or -guo ( ) BA preposition ba ( ) used to advance the object of the predicative verb to the pre-verb position BI comparative word bi ( ) used to link two things to be compared CL classifier used between a numeral and a noun, or between a demonstrative (this or that) and a noun, e.g. ge ( ), tiao ( ), jian ( ), etc. EMP emphatic adverb such as cai ( ), ke ( ), or you ( ) GEN possessive marker: -de ( ), which denotes a possessive relationship between the noun phrases linked by it Int. interjection that appears as a separate element at the beginning or end of a Mandarin sentence NOM nominalizer: -de ( ) used to turn an adjective or a verb consti- tuent into a noun phrase PSV passive voice marker: gei ( ) or bei ( ) PT unspecified particle at the end of a sentence RHM rhetorical question marker such as nar ( ), nali ( ), nandao ( ), etc. STP structural particles: -de ( ), -de ( ), -de ( ), which serve to show grammatical relationships between sentence elements ( denotes that the sentence constituent before it is grammatically an attributive modifying the noun after it. indicates that the sentence element attached by it is an adverbial phrase modifying the subsequent verb or verb phrase. The grammatical function of is to introduce a post-verb complement.) ZAI adverb zai ( ) indicating the progressive aspect of an action xvi ~ undefinable element in an idiomatic phrase or a verb-object compound . . omission or a big pause made by a...

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