The syntactic and pragmatic properties of a-not-a question in Chinese.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis looks at the syntactic structure and pragmatic functions of A-not-A questions in spoken Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, and in written Chinese. The data analysed in this study comes from three films produced in Hong Kong which have audio in Cantonese and Mandarin, plus Chinese and English subtitles.
Four patterns of A-not-A questions are attested in my sample: A-not-A forms, A-not-AB forms, a-not-AB forms, a-not-A forms, where ‘A’ stands for the full form of the predicate, ‘a’ stands for the first syllable of a disyllabic predicate and ‘B’ stands for the complement. For all instances of disyllabic verbs (or adjectives, or adverbs) only the first syllable is pronounced in the affirmative and the full verb (or adjective, or adverb) in the negative counterpart. The patterns attested in this study can be captured in the modular approach proposed by J. Huang (2010) and R. Huang (2010).The forms of A-not-AB and a-not-AB questions are derived from a full coordinate structure via conjunction reduction to delete the identical complement in a backward direction. Then syllable reduction applies to A-not-AB forms to delete the second syllable of disyllabic predicates in the affirmative to yield a-not- AB forms. When A-not-A and a-not-A questions do not contain any complements, conjunction reduction does not apply. However, syllable reduction applies to A-not-A forms to delete the second syllable of disyllabic predicates in a backward direction to give a-not-A forms.
Cantonese A-not-A questions usually contain a sentence-final particle (such as 呀 aa1, 呀 aa3, 呢 ni1, 𡃉 gaa3, 喇吓 laa3haa2 and 吖嗱 aa1naa4) whereas most of Mandarin Chinese and written Chinese A-not-A questions do not contain sentence-final particles. The data also revealed morphological, lexical and grammatical differences between the Cantonese, Mandarin, and written Chinese versions, which influence the patterns of A-not-A questions.
My examination of the pragmatic functions of the A-not-A questions in the Cantonese version indicates that A-not-A questions can function as indirect speech acts and gambits as well as genuine question.