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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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7. Analysis of Particle a with Exclamatives 257


257 7. Analysis of Particle a with Exclamatives As already mentioned in Literature Review (Chapter 2), exclamatives in Chinese are commonly defined in Chinese grammars as sentences where speakers express strong emotions of various kinds. Works on Mandarin grammar generally note the fact that particle a is often used with ex- clamative sentences of the language. In the corpus data of this study, a total of 169 exclamative sentences are found which end in this particle. This chapter addresses the uses of particle a with these sentences and it comprises three sections. Section 7.1 examines the particle’s emphatic use with exclamatives; Section 7.2 focuses on those exclamatory utter- ances in which particle a expresses the speaker’s surprised feeling about the described event or situation; and Section 7.3 takes a look at more marginalized exclamatory uses of the particle with affirmative answers and set social expressions. 7.1 Speaker strong emotions The examination of the corpus data shows clearly that particle a can perform an emphatic function with exclamatives in that it adds to the intensity of the emotion conveyed by an exclamative and also in that it can help construct exclamatives. This finding is in line with what is generally recognized in the literature that the particle can indicate or intensify the exclamatory mood of an utterance (see Literature Review on exclamatives in Section 2.3.4). It is necessary to point out, however, that the particle is capable of doing all this (indicating or intensifying the exclamatory mood of an utterance) simply...

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