UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Response markers in Mandarin Chinese conversation : a corpus-based case study of shi, dui, xing, hao and the variants of shi Yuan, Yifang


The aim of this thesis is to provide a comprehensive and data-supported analysis of the four most common positive simplex response markers (RMs) in Mandarin Chinese conversation: shi (‘yes’), dui (‘yes’), xing (‘okay’), hao (‘okay’) and the modified forms of shi (‘yes’) such as shi-de (‘yes-SFP’) and shi-ma (‘yes-SFP’). Previous studies on RMs generally focus on morphologically simplex RMs and use data from introspection or fiction, which are not able to represent the diversity of the forms nor the distribution of RMs in real-life conversations. By utilizing the targeted construction storyboard (Burton & Matthewson, 2015) introspective analysis as well as quantitative and qualitative corpus analyses, this thesis investigates not only morphologically simplex RMs but also complex RMs in natural Mandarin conversations. This thesis describes the system of RMs in Mandarin Chinese, and analyzes the semantic properties, syntactic structures, and essential functions of Mandarin positive simplex RMs following the existing approaches to RMs in previous studies. Guided by Wiltschko et al.’s (2018) approach to multi-functionality, this study systematically examines all the potentially relevant contextual factors and identifies the specific ones that Mandarin RMs are sensitive to by using the data from storyboard introspective judgments. By utilizing a corpus-based approach, this study tests the effects of the identified contextual factors on Mandarin RMs with real-life data, identifies all the modified forms of shi in the corpus, and discusses how the modification of simplex RMs relates to contextual factors and affects the essential functions of the simplex RMs. With the data from the storyboard introspection and the corpus study, this thesis provides an overview of the use and distribution of Mandarin RMs in real-life conversation, and demonstrates that the forms and discourse functions of Mandarin RMs are contextually dependent. Mandarin RMs generally only have agreement and acknowledgement functions. Some of the previously established discourse functions of Mandarin complex RMs are derived from the combination of the essential functions of Mandarin RMs and contextual factors.

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