Nothing More than Particles

Uses, Functions, and Acquisition of the yuqici of Modern Chinese
Tuesday
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room H

  • Sergio Conti, Marco Casentini, “Learners’ Use of Chinese Sentence-Final Particles in a Tandem-Learning Context”
  • Valentino Eletti, Chiara Romagnoli, “The Occurrence of Sentence-Final Particle ba 吧 in Relation to Clause Typology: A Study on Italian Teaching Materials”
  • Carmen Lepadat, “Modal Particles and Right Dislocations: A Pragmatic Analysis of Spoken Mandarin Chinese”
  • Chiara Piccinini, “Analysis of the Main Pragmatic Functions of Utterance-Final Discourse Markers in a Corpus of Spoken Chinese Language Lessons”

Frequently used in spoken language, Chinese modal or sentence-final particles (SFPs) have been described from different theoretical perspectives and in relation to different linguistic phenomena. However, their definition, classification, and functions still constitute a puzzle for linguists. This panel proposes a reflection on the SFPs of modern Chinese from different research perspectives, with special emphasis on actual language as it is used in specific contexts for the purpose of communication and the role of SFPs in Chinese language acquisition.
Conti and Casentini will analyse learners’ production and use of SFPs in spontaneous interactions with native peers, finding a neglectable correlation between SFP accuracy, SFP variety, and time of observation. Eletti and Romagnoli will conduct an analysis on the occurrence of ba 吧 in the teaching materials for Italian high school learners of Chinese, examining the distribution of its discourse functions and discussing the main implications on language acquisition. Lepadat will examine native speakers’ use of SFPs and their relations with postponed or right-dislocated topics. Basing her analysis on a corpus of spoken Chinese, she will describe the relation between modal markers and the degree of activation/identifiability of the dislocated referents. Lastly, Piccinini will report the results of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of SFP use in teacher-learner interactions, in order to identify how mother-tongue teachers employed them in the teaching process and observing if students are able to produce them in a guided context.

Sergio Conti, Marco Casentini, “Learners’ Use of Chinese Sentence-Final Particles in a Tandem-Learning Context”

Due to their “light-weight appearance” (Shei, 2014: 318) and their polysemy (Badan & Romagoli, 2018), the acquisition of Chinese sentence-final particles (SFPs) constitutes a criticality for Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) learners. Nevertheless, the number of studies addressing SFP acquisition and teaching is still limited. Some studies analysed and classified the errors committed by learners (e.g. Xu, 2002), while others provided suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of teaching (e.g. Xie, 2007). In one of the few examples of experimental studies on SFP acquisition, Badan and Romagnoli (2018) found that ne 呢 and ba 吧 are the most challenging for learners, as there is no univocal correspondence between form and functions.
This study aims to analyse the use of SFPs in the interactions between CFL learners and native speakers of Chinese and how it changes over time. The informants were 13 Italian second-year learners of Chinese who participated in the tandem-learning project with Chinese Marco Polo/Turandot students. The data were collected during a three-month timespan and were transcribed according to the methods of Conversation Analysis. The quantitative and qualitative analysis showed that (i) the most frequently produced SFP is the interrogative ma 吗, whereas other SFPs are seldom or never used; (ii) the use of SFPs does not increase in time, but it seems to be tied to other factors such as the presence of (semi-)fixed chunks or the type of task submitted to the participants.

References
Badan, L., & Romagnoli, C. (2018). “The Acquisition of Mandarin Sentence-final Particles by Italian Learners.” International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching (ahead of print publication).
Shei, C. (2014). Understanding the Chinese Language: A Comprehensive Linguistic Introduction. Abingdon, New York: Routledge.
Xie, B. (2007). “Lüe lun yuqici “ne” de wan ju gongneng zai duiwai hanyu jiaoxue zhong de yunyong.” Shanghai daxue xuebao (Shehui kexue ban), 14(3), 142–145.
Xu, L. (2002). “Waiguo xuesheng yuqici shiyong pianwu fenxi.” Zhejiang shifan daxue xuebao (Shehui kexue ban), 121(27), 89–92.

Valentino Eletti, Chiara Romagnoli, “The Occurrence of Sentence-Final Particle ba 吧 in Relation to Clause Typology: A Study on Italian Teaching Materials”

In the field of teaching Chinese as a second language (TCSL), sentence-final particles, especially ma 吗, ba 吧, and ne 呢 are usually presented at a fairly early stage of the teaching process, thus enabling students to convey different intentions and to perform a range of linguistic acts. From the TCSL perspective, SFPs are also among the first empty words learned by students and share salient graphical features with one another.
This study will focus on sentence-final particle ba 吧, which has been studied from different linguistic perspectives and is still considered to be problematic in its definition (Zhao, 2019) and from the acquisitional perspective (Badan & Romagnoli, 2018).
Shao (1996) found that on a syntactic level ba 吧 mainly appears in three clause types: declarative, interrogative, and imperative sentence. This was confirmed by later studies (Qi, 2008).
In this research we will focus on the occurrence of this particle in the two main teaching materials for Italian high school learners of Chinese (Masini et al., 2016; Ambrosini et al., 2017), presenting qualitative and quantitative data of the distribution of this SFP in relation to the three different syntactical clause types. Our aim is to show if a trend in the functional distribution of ba 吧 is present, in a context where the language input is more normative, such as the one adopted in teaching materials and didactic practices.

References
Ambrosini, C. et al. (2017). Shuo hanyu, xie hanzi. Bologna: Zanichelli.
Badan, L., & Romagnoli, C. (2018). “The Acquisition of Mandarin Sentence Final Particles by Italian Learners.” International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching (ahead of print publication).
Masini, F. et al. (2016). Parliamo cinese. Milano: Hoepli.
Qi, C. (2008). Xiandai hanyu yuqi fuci yanjiu. Kunming: Yunnan renmin chubanshe.
Shao, J. 1996. Xiandai hanyu yiwenju yanjiu. Shanghai: Huadong shifan daxue chubanshe.
Zhao, C. (2019). Xiandai hanyu jumo zhuci yanjiu. Beijing: The Commercial Press.

Carmen Lepadat, “Modal Particles and Right Dislocations: A Pragmatic Analysis of Spoken Mandarin Chinese”

Right dislocations are constructions in which “a lexical topic NP is positioned at the end of the clause containing the information about the topic referent” (Lambrecht, 1994: 202). For what concerns Mandarin Chinese, it is generally acknowledged that right dislocations follow the sentence-final modal particles when these are present in the utterance (Lee, 2013). However, recent studies on spoken data such as Shi (2017) have pointed out that right dislocations and afterthoughts may also be followed by an additional modal particle in specific communicative contexts. However, while it is clear that right dislocations and modal particles are tightly connected, their relationship has hardly ever been investigated from a pragmatic perspective.
This study seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the relations between referential right dislocations and modal particles in Mandarin Chinese through a corpus-based analysis of ca 22 hours of unscripted telephone conversations between native speakers of Mandarin Chinese (CallFriend Corpus, available from http://talkbank.org). The analysis focuses on RDs’ degree of activation and identifiability, co-referential forms, sentence-types and specific modal particles (a 啊, ba 吧, ma 吗, ma 嘛, ne 呢). The results of the statistical models run with R suggest that: i) referent activation degree patterns with different sentence-types, which in turn can be marked by different modal particles; ii) modal particles can optionally mark a referential constituent to increase textual coherence and item relevance (Chu, 2009; Sperber & Wilson, 1995).

References
Shi, Y. 2017. “Renshi ‘hua weiba’- Jianyi ‘juzi suipian’ [Speech Tail and Sentence Fragment].” Yuyan jiaoxue yu yanjiu 1: 57–67.
Chu, C. 2009. “Relevance and the Discourse Functions of Mandarin Utterance-Final Modality Particles.” Linguistics and Language Compass 3 (1): 282–99.
Lambrecht, K. 1994. Information Structure and Sentence Form: Topic, Focus, and the Mental Representations of Discourse Referents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lee, K. 2013. “Right Dislocation in Chinese: Syntax and Information Structure”. Korean Journal of Chinese Language and Literature 3: 3–50.
Sperber D., & D. Wilson. 1995. Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Cambridge: Blackwell.

Chiara Piccinini, “Analysis of the Main Pragmatic Functions of Utterance-Final Discourse Markers in a Corpus of Spoken Chinese Language Lessons”

This contribution is a qualitative and quantitative analysis of guided conversations in a formative context. The analysis was carried out considering the occurrence of modal particles and other phrases occurring in utterance-final position used as “discourse markers” (DM, following the definition by Schiffrin, 1987; Fraser, 1999, 2006) in Chinese language (Chen & He, 2001; Deng, 2015; Lee-Wong, 2001; Yang, 2006), taking into account both textual and interpersonal functions (Liu, 2011). DMs were observed in audio-recorded and transcribed interactions between a native Chinese-speaking teacher and a group of Italian students learning Chinese as a Foreign Language in Italy. The interactions have been selected from a corpus of 10 hours of spoken Chinese language during Chinese oral lessons.
We distinguished the occurrences of data produced by teachers and by students with the aim of identifying how mother-tongue teachers employed them in the teaching process and observing if students were able to produce them in a guided context. Results suggested that the ability to use DMs by learners in the interaction is linked to the proficiency of the informants, as shown by previous literature (Tsai & Chu, 2017); moreover, we observed that the conscious use of utterance-final DMs by teachers can be a valuable tool to improve Chinese language teaching methodology.

References
Deng, Y. (2015), “Huati biaoji ‘a, ne, ba, ma’ de gongneng yanjiu 话题标记’啊、呢、吧、嘛’的功能研究 [Research on the Functions of Discourse Markers a, ne, ba, ma],” Journal of Qinzhou University 30, pp. 29-35.
Fraser, B. (1999), “What are Discourse Markers?,” Journal of Pragmatics 31, pp. 931–952.
Fraser, B. (2006), “Towards a Theory of Discourse Markers,” in K. Fischer (ed.), Approaches to Discourse Particles, Leiden: Brill, pp. 189–204.
Lee-Wong, S. (2001), “Coherence, Focus and Structure: The Role of Discourse Particle ne,” Pragmatics 11, 2, pp. 139–153.
Liu, B. (2011), “Chinese Discourse Markers in Oral Speech of Mainland Mandarin Speakers,” in Y. Xiao et al. (ed.), Current Issues in Chinese Linguistics, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar Publishing, pp. 364–405.
Schiffrin, D. (1987), Discourse Markers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tsai, P.-S. & Chu, W.-H. (2017), “The Use of Discourse Markers among Mandarin Chinese Teachers, and Chinese as a Second Language and Chinese as a Foreign Language Learners,” Applied Linguistics 38/5, pp. 638–665.
Yang, L. (2006), “Integrating Prosodic and Contextual Cues in the Interpretation of Discourse Markers,” in K. Fischer (ed.), Approaches to Discourse Particles, Leiden: Brill, pp. 265–297.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room H
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Uses, Functions, and Acquisition of the yuqici of Modern Chinese