The ingredients of counterfactuality in Mandarin Chinese

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The ingredients of counterfactuality in Mandarin Chinese


Author: Wang, Yuying
Title: The ingredients of counterfactuality in Mandarin Chinese
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2012
Subject: Chinese language -- Conditionals.
Counterfactuals (Logic)
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: xi, 292 p. : ill. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: This dissertation studies the realization of conditional counterfactual meaning in Mandarin Chinese. It first identifies lexical items and syntactic expressions that contribute, explicitly or implicitly, to the formation of counterfactual meaning (such expressions being termed "counterfactual ingredients" in this work). It then provides semantic and pragmatic analysis to the role played by each ingredient in the realization of counterfactuality. Based on the analyses of these ingredients, the dissertation finally attempts to give a global semantic-pragmatic account of the process of counterfactual interpretation. Our purpose here is to prove that in Chinese, there are indeed linguistic components that can result in counterfactuality, but they only constitute part of the counterfactuality generating system, which can construct other counterfactual meanings, in some cases via accessing multiple layers of contexts. Some major Chinese counterfactual ingredients examined here include temporal elements, hypothetical conjunctions, negators, rhetorical questions, personal pronouns and counterfactual enhancers. It is claimed that unlike the seemingly complicated manifestations, which appear to be assorted and scattered in grammatical or lexical realizations, counterfactual ingredients fall into two categories, those which contribute to factual meaning and those which contribute to negation: FACTUAL: temporal expressions, personal pronouns, rhetorical questions, counterfactual enchancers; NEGATION: negators. Counterfactuality in Chinese can be achieved mainly through time-distancing and negation. Some temporal expressions, such as zao(早) and le(了), are used to create a time-distancing effect, projecting an imagined event time E that is removed from the real event time. E is only vaguely projected, i.e. being unspecific in time. Negating the current and factual can transport language users to a different possible world: a world as similar to the actual world as possible, with one exceptional difference introduced by the protasis. Another interesting finding we have made during the process of the research is that although counterfactual conditionals are well accepted as a typical example of irrealis, some of the ingredients that are studied here, such as temporal expressions and negators (bushi (不是) and meiyou(沒有),, which are more frequently used than bu(不)) are always applied to realis occasions. It can be concluded that counterfactual in Chinese is an example of realization of irrealis through partial realis representations.
Based on the analysis of individual counterfactual ingredients, we reach an overall account of counterfactuality in Chinese conditional sentences. We argue that the interpretation of a counterfactual conditional may be established via accessing three layers of contexts. A local context is formed when one or several of the counterfactual ingredients are exploited in a conditional sentence. The second layer of context is what we call compound sentence context, which refers to the interpretation of the protasis and the apodosis. It is argued in the dissertation that it is the counterfactual ingredients in the protasis, rather than those in the apodosis, which play a dominant role in deciding the reading of a conditional sentence. Finally a macro context, or discourse context. It could be the information provided by the previous content, or general knowledge, or even observable features about the immediate physical environment on the spot or about the interlocutors. These three contexts interact with one another. The advantage of developing such an account of the counterfactual conditionals and their intuitive truth-condition lies in mainly two aspects. First, counterfactual ingredients are no longer trivial and some of them which were once taken as redundant can be successfully categorized either to be a factive element or a negation element, and thus can all be incorporated into the system of counterfactual interpretation. Second, based on the indexical analysis of the protasis and the apodosis, we can even prove that the counterfactual fallacies are not fallacies at all, if the context remains the same.

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