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Biased Interpretation and Response Patterns of Mandarin ‘MA(嗎)’ Polar Question

  • The Journal of Chinese Cultural Studies
  • 2019, (45), pp.139-164
  • DOI : 10.18212/cccs.2019..45.007
  • Publisher : The Society For Chinese Cultural Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Chinese Language and Literature > Chinese Literature > Chinese Culture
  • Received : July 23, 2019
  • Accepted : August 15, 2019
  • Published : August 30, 2019

Jeong-Hyun Lim 1

1숭실대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

There are two types of polar questions in Mandarin Chinese, i.e., sentence final particle ‘MA(嗎)’ question and V-not-V question. It is well-known fact that those two question types are distinguished in three ways. First, only ‘MA’ polar question implies speaker’s bias reading, which can be divided into evidential bias and epistemic bias. Second, only ‘MA’ polar question can co-occur with scope bearing elements. Third, only biased ‘MA’ polar question allows answers with response particle ‘Shi(是)/ Bu shi(不是)’. Our main concern is how to effectively capture these syntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties typical in ‘MA’ polar question, and how to clarify the interface phenomena observed. Rizzi(1997)'s hierarchically organized fine-grained syntactic structure and Wiltschko(2014, 2017)'s speech act related functional projections provide useful tools to associate the interface between syntactic structure and discourse-related notion. Especially, by setting speaker-oriented Ground projection in the syntax of question, the vague notion speaker’s bias can be overtly encoded into syntactic structure. Different syntactic restrictions on scope-bearing elements in two types of polar questions can also be explained by connecting similar necessary conditions on speaker’s Ground projection and scope-bearing elements, as well as by positing distinct syntactic positions licensing interrogative feature of ‘MA’ and V-not-V questions. Lastly, this paper shows that the dual-function of response particles and agreement feature value of them are responsible for the different answering patterns of the two types of polar questions in Mandarin Chinese.

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