Taiwan Mandarin Daodi Questions in Despair : A Study in Formal and Experimental Pragmatics

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2023
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In this dissertation, I pursue a dynamic approach to analyze the data of Taiwan Mandarin daodi in non-canonical questions and predict reactions towards them. The discourse particle daodi carries the literal meaning of ‘to the bottom’ and, when used in questions, conveys a sense of desperation on the part of the speaker. Daodi is employed in three distinct types of non-canonical questions: extreme-ignorance questions (EIQs), cornering questions (CorQs), and unanswerable questions (UnansQs). EIQs involve difficulty in finding answers, CorQs arise when the speaker cannot retrieve the answer from the addressee, and UnansQs are questions that cannot be resolved, possibly seeking emotional agreement or commiseration from the addressee. Examples of daodi-EIQs, daodi-CorQs, and daodi-UnansQs are provided in (1), (2) and (3) respectively:

(1) daodi yaoshi zai nali? [EIQ] daodi key at where ‘Where on earth/the hell is the key?’

(2) ni daodi yao-bu-yao he kafe? [CorQ] you daodi want-not-want drink coffee ‘Do you want to drink coffee or not?’

(3) daodi shi she nazuo-le women-de yusan? [UnansQ] daodi be who take-ASP we-POS umbrella ‘Who on earth/the hell took away our umbrella?’

Across languages, various particles or forms are used to indicate different types of non-canonical questions. In Taiwan Mandarin, the overarching theme underlying EIQs, CorQs, and UnansQs is the speaker’s desperation towards the questions. In this dissertation, I introduce the term “Questions in Despair” to describe Taiwan Mandarin daodi-marked questions and aim to develop a dynamic and unified analysis that captures daodi-data and extends the analysis cross-linguistically.

The dissertation consists of four parts. Part I includes a literature review of non-canonical questions (Chapter 2) and expressives (Chapter 3). Moreover, it explores the data and empirical studies on Taiwan Mandarin daodi in questions, which serve as the foundation for the proposed analysis (Chapter 4).

Part II presents the main proposal of the dissertation (Chapter 5). I put forth a framework that comprises two essential ingredients: the Conventional Implicature (CI) content of daodi and a commitment-based discourse model, also known as the Table model or conversational scoreboards. These ingredients are intertwined, resulting in a novel Table model where the Discourse Commitment of a discourse participant X, DC X , records the conversational moves of both the at-issue and non-at-issue content of an utterance in a two-dimensional format. The proposed analysis goes beyond existing literature by providing a clear and distinct delineation for UnansQs and by distinguishing the discourse commitment of the at-issue content and the non-at-issue content within the discourse commitments set.

In part III, I extend the proposed analysis to other languages, specifically Japanese and German (Chapter 6) and in part IV, I broaden the scope to focus on the impact of pragmatic contexts (Chapter 7).

Overall, this dissertation not only provides valuable empirical evidence to supplement the theoretical analysis but also presents a dynamic discourse model that captures the semantic contributions of expressives in conversations and their pragmatic impact on shaping the discourse and eliciting reactions.

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400 Sprachwissenschaft, Linguistik
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non-canonical questions, discourse dynamics, cross-linguistic variations, emotive expressives, Taiwan Mandarin
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ISO 690CHANG, Chen-An, 2023. Taiwan Mandarin Daodi Questions in Despair : A Study in Formal and Experimental Pragmatics [Dissertation]. Konstanz: University of Konstanz
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@phdthesis{Chang2023Taiwa-68012,
  year={2023},
  title={Taiwan Mandarin Daodi Questions in Despair : A Study in Formal and Experimental Pragmatics},
  author={Chang, Chen-An},
  address={Konstanz},
  school={Universität Konstanz}
}
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    <dcterms:abstract>In this dissertation, I pursue a dynamic approach to analyze the data of Taiwan Mandarin daodi in non-canonical questions and predict reactions towards them. The discourse particle daodi carries the literal meaning of ‘to the bottom’ and, when used in questions, conveys a sense of desperation on the part of the speaker. Daodi is employed in three distinct types of non-canonical questions: extreme-ignorance questions (EIQs), cornering questions (CorQs), and unanswerable questions (UnansQs). EIQs involve difficulty in finding answers, CorQs arise when the speaker cannot retrieve the answer from the addressee, and UnansQs are questions that cannot be resolved, possibly seeking emotional agreement or commiseration from the addressee. Examples of daodi-EIQs, daodi-CorQs, and daodi-UnansQs are provided in (1), (2) and (3) respectively:

(1)   daodi yaoshi zai  nali?      [EIQ] 
       daodi  key      at   where
       ‘Where on earth/the hell is the key?’

(2)   ni    daodi yao-bu-yao       he     kafe?     [CorQ] 
        you daodi want-not-want drink coffee
        ‘Do you want to drink coffee or not?’

(3)   daodi shi she  nazuo-le  women-de yusan?      [UnansQ] 
        daodi be  who take-ASP we-POS     umbrella
        ‘Who on earth/the hell took away our umbrella?’

Across languages, various particles or forms are used to indicate different types of non-canonical questions. In Taiwan Mandarin, the overarching theme underlying EIQs, CorQs, and UnansQs is the speaker’s desperation towards the questions. In this dissertation, I introduce the term “Questions in Despair” to describe Taiwan Mandarin daodi-marked questions and aim to develop a dynamic and unified analysis that captures daodi-data and extends the analysis cross-linguistically.

The dissertation consists of four parts. Part I includes a literature review of non-canonical questions (Chapter 2) and expressives (Chapter 3). Moreover, it explores the data and empirical studies on Taiwan Mandarin daodi in questions, which serve as the foundation for the proposed analysis (Chapter 4).

Part II presents the main proposal of the dissertation (Chapter 5). I put forth a framework that comprises two essential ingredients: the Conventional Implicature (CI) content of daodi and a commitment-based discourse model, also known as the Table model or conversational scoreboards. These ingredients are intertwined, resulting in a novel Table model where the Discourse Commitment of a discourse participant X, DC &lt;sub&gt;X&lt;/sub&gt; , records the conversational moves of both the at-issue and non-at-issue content of an utterance in a two-dimensional format. The proposed analysis goes beyond existing literature by providing a clear and distinct delineation for UnansQs and by distinguishing the discourse commitment of the at-issue content and the non-at-issue content within the discourse commitments set.

In part III, I extend the proposed analysis to other languages, specifically Japanese and German (Chapter 6) and in part IV, I broaden the scope to focus on the impact of pragmatic contexts (Chapter 7).

Overall, this dissertation not only provides valuable empirical evidence to supplement the theoretical analysis but also presents a dynamic discourse model that captures the semantic contributions of expressives in conversations and their pragmatic impact on shaping the discourse and eliciting reactions.</dcterms:abstract>
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October 26, 2023
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Konstanz, Univ., Diss., 2023
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