Author: Do, Hue Sang
Title: A corpus-based register analysis of Chinese public written announcements
Advisors: Chan, Shui Duen (CBS)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2021
Subject: Signs and signboards -- China
Corpora (Linguistics)
Chinese languag
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Pages: 120 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Linguistic landscapes, which refer to any visible written texts found on shop or road signs, advertising billboards, street names, etc. (Landry & Bourhis, 1997), have been discussed in the context of multilingualism, literacy, multimodality, and language policy. From a register and genre perspective, however, public signs represent a written language variety as well as authentic and contextualized language use that is part of the social practice of a given public domain. This study examines the linguistic characteristics and discourse conventions of Chinese public written signs, announces, notices, warnings and reminders among others. For this purpose, a corpus of over 300 signs was compiled, containing signs from various public domains (traffic & transportation, tourism, education, shopping & commerce) in the People's Republic of China. The signs were analyzed using Biber & Conrad's (2009) theoretical framework for register analysis as well as speech act theory. First, a situational analysis was carried out to describe the situational characteristics of public written signs, followed by a quantitative and contrastive analysis to determine the distribution of grammatical and lexical features. One of the more salient features of public signs is the hierarchical relationship between the addressor and the recipient and the low level of interactivity between the two. In the majority of cases, an institutional anonymous author uses the written medium to impose some kind of restriction, realized as rules and regulations, on the public reader. The reader maybe requested to perform a certain action, or refrain from doing so, often accompanied by reasons and explanations that may emphasize the benefits of complying with the request. In a second step, a linguistic analysis revealed the lexical and grammatical characteristics of public signs. Findings indicate that the language used in Chinese public signs displays typical features of other informational written registers in Chinese, such as scarcity of function words.
Finally, a qualitative move analysis was conducted on one type of public signs ­reminders, referring to speech act theory (Searle, 1976) and making use of the modified CCSARP framework and categories (Rue & Zhang, 2008) to explain the realization patterns of requesting. The findings suggest that the majority of the reminders exhibit similar discourse features in terms of their textual organization, indicating that conventions impose a need to follow a generic structure when addressing the audience of public signs. On the other hand, more variation is apparent concerning the actual strategies used to persuade the reader to comply with a request. It was also observed that direct requests using imperatives were the most preferred strategy in the requestive head acts of reminders. They were mostly accompanied by several supportive moves to mitigate the impositive force of the request, in addition to lexical and syntactical means including politeness markers, honorific forms of addressing the reader and conditional clauses. Overall, external modification seem to play a slightly more important role than internal modification when expressing requests and prohibitions in public reminders. The findings of this study contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of variation among Chinese written registers as well as language use in Chinese public signs as part of the linguistic landscape in the Mainland China.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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