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Xue, Lu (2023) Negation, Accommodation and Thought-ascription— On The Inferential Meaning of Connectives in Mandarin Chinese. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00039488

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Abstract

The meanings of Mandarin adverbs often display a chameleonic nature. Some of them, like propositional connectives, are used as Boolean operators and can be readily translated as such in a logical way. However, in the specific conversational context, they have highly colloquial usages that are hard to explain in purely logico-semantic terms such as ∀, ∃, ∧, ∨, → and ¬. Yòu ‘again’, yě ‘also’, and dào ‘but’ are cases in point, but they are less discussed than cái ‘only if/only’, jiù ‘if/only’, dōu ‘all’, and hái ‘still’ in the existing literature. This thesis investigates the semantics and pragmatics of yòu, yě, and dào in naturally occurring conversational data and characterises both their encoded and inferential meanings. It provides a unified treatment that resolves the problems caused by the scattered propositional meanings and unclear interpretations related to the use of each term. It is argued that yòu, yě, and dào all have conjunctive meaning, whose left conjunct can be either explicitly present or omitted and whose right conjunct must be present. In terms of the core meaning of these terms, yòu and yě concern different aspects of ‘addition’ and dào highlights the turn of thought between the current state of affairs and previous assumptions. Moreover, using the relevance-theoretic analysis, to achieve a coherent interpretation of the inferential meaning of yòu, yě, and dào within the specific context, it is proposed in this thesis that there is a need to backtrack and accommodate an implicit proposition as the premise for inferring the implicature of that utterance, such as a conditional relation, which is a type of pragmatic presupposition (rather than semantic presupposition, conventional implicature or conversational implicature). However, what really invites the abductive inference related to presupposition requirement is the function of the sentences embedding these connectives, specifically the negative sentences, rather than the function of these individual terms alone. This thesis gives a detailed characterisation on the pragmatic inferences induced by these terms and their following negated propositions within the framework of relevance theory and contrasts it with different views from previous studies. It not only gives a unified analysis of the several senses of each conjunctive adverb but also proposes to portray the related meaning construction in a generalised compositional manner, even though it is not formalised.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Yan Jiang, Lutz Marten and Nathan Hill
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00039488
Date Deposited: 12 May 2023 10:19
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/39488

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