This thesis focuses on a neglected category of discourse
units in Amoy Chinese: Discourse markers (DMs). The central
aim of the thesis is to explore the nature of the DMs in
Amoy discourse through a detailed analysis of the Amoy
utterance final DM ho. A further objective is to provide a
theoretical framework for DM study in other languages.
The main hypothesis is that the central meaning of ho
is to seek affirmation that the newly introduced
proposition(s) is/are appropriately...[Show more] recognized by the
hearer, and whether the other discourse functions of ho,
such as indicating the speaker's relinquishing the floor
and asking for hearer's solidarity, are contextual variants
of this central meaning.
There were two reasons for selecting the utterance final marker ho for detailed study. The first was that ho
has a typical distribution as do other DMs in Amoy: it can
appear in two different type of utterance positions: an
utterance conveying a complete propositional meaning and an
utterance conveying an uncompleted propositional meaning.
This distribution feature helps in understanding the
complex nature of a DM. The second reason was that ho
always co-occurs with other "inclusive" personal pronouns
such as lan (inclusive "us") which couches a clear
"selfhood" meaning. This "selfhood" meaning of ho helps to
explain the social-cultural meaning of ho.
The data in this study is based on twelve hours of
authentic tape recordings of twelve native Amoy speakers
(including the author), eight of whom currently study in
Australian universities, and four of whom are new graduates
currently employed in Amoy City. Four of the twelve were
female speakers. The twelve speakers were divided into two
groups: intimate and non-intimate groups according to their
relationships to each other. The criteria for determining
their relationships were a) time (how long they had known
each other); b) type of relationship; c) age; d) education
level; and e) gender. About three hours tape recordings
were randomly taken during author's friends visit to him.
Another three hours were taken when author's friends were invited to visit him. Some of the subjects were aware that
they conversations were taped and some were not. Tape
recordings were taken in either the author's horne ln
Canberra or author's brother's horne in Amoy City.
This thesis examines ho from the point of view of
socio-linguistics, social psychology, pragmatics,
information theory, and cybernetic theory. Comparisons
between English and Mandarin are made in all seven
chapters. A revision of Schiffrin's (1987) discourse
analysis model is adopted for the study. Two basic
categories have been added to the old model: phonetic
features of DMs discussed in Chapter Three, and the
implication of interpersonal relationship of DMs discussed
in Chapter Seven. Also other changes have been made to the
revised model, e.g. Action Structures and Participant
Framework are no longer treated as independent categories,
but have been incorporated into other categories' analyses
because these two categories are not so significant to the
DMs. The orientation of the use of DMs is pragmatic, as DMs
mainly convey the speaker's attitudinal and emotional
feeling towards the propositional content and the hearer.
The nature of DMs can only be revealed by analysing the
relationship between DMs' pragmatic function and their
phonetic structures; their function in information
structures; their function in the turn taking structure;
their function in the interpersonal structure; and their
function in the overall discourse system comprised of the
above five components.
During the course of this study, the above hypothesis
was confirmed. Several specific points can be made in
relation to the findings.
The first point concerns the phonological features of
ho. The basic intonation pattern of ho associated with its
central meaning is a normal volume, short tempo, and with a
falling lexical tonic pattern, approximating the "yinqu"
lexical tonic pattern in Amoy Chinese. A second point is that ho's central meaning is goal
orientated. It belongs to the application of the second
communication goal: how to say it, to whom (compared with the first communication goal, what to say). DMs are always
used when a discrepant expectation is created between the
Another significant finding was that all other
functions of ho are contextual variants of the central
meaning. These variants are associated with different human
cognitive states when newly introduced information is being
processed in these states.
Finally, this study shows that the DMs act as an antientropy
force which is used to stabilize the communication
system where a deviant factor is detected by the speaker.
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