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Title: Corrective Focus in Mandarin Chinese
Subtitle: A Question of Belief?
Written By: Markus Greif
Series Title: LINCOM Studies in Chinese Linguistics 09
Description:

The present study investigates the impact of constrastive focus (CF) on the
prosody in Mandarin Chinese (MC), known as a tone language. CF in
corrections – hence, corrective focus – was often defined mainly in terms of
semantic alternatives replacing a corrected item (e.g., Rooth 1992, Krifka
2007). In these frameworks, speaker-hearer assumptions, or mutual beliefs
have been considered more or less (ir-)relevant (e.g., Chafe 1976). There is,
however, an approach according to which the violation of speaker-hearer
beliefs is the main factor for regarding an expression as contrastive, i.e., the
Contrastive Focus Hypothesis (CFH; Zimmermann 2007).

As a consequence, linguistic marking of CF would be restricted to those
cases in which the propositional content of particular information is
considered by the speaker to be highly unexpected for the addressee,
assuming that a language reserves grammatical devices for marking
contrastiveness at all. Apart from that, it has been proposed a
counterpresuppositional focus type – correcting presupposed information (on
the polarity of a proposition) – as distinct from corrective focus
(Gussenhoven 2007). Several studies found that MC marks (wh-)focus in
terms of specific adjustments of the lexical tones, both on- and post-focally
(e.g., Jin 1996, Xu 1999). These results have been implemented in the TA
model (Xu & Wang 2001) and developed further in the PENTA model by Xu
(2005) and Xu et al. (forthcoming). However, few is known about corrective
focus in comparison to wh-focus in this language – and there has been no
empirical study on the impact of the violation of mutual beliefs on the
realization of CF.

Both aspects are at the center of interest in the present study. Two types of
corrective foci (COR) have been investigated systematically by means of a
semi-spontaneous elicitation method. In the first type of COR foregrounded,
or asserted material is to be corrected by the participants (A-COR), while the
second type of COR applies to presupposed background information (P-
COR). A third type of focus, i.e., narrow wh-focus, or neutral information
focus (NIF) serves as the baseline condition to be compared with A-COR and
P-COR. It can be shown that only P-COR has been consistently
distinguished from NIF by the speakers, and that A-COR and P-COR differ
considerably in their prosodic realizations. Thus, the results show that, first,
MC allows for marking relatively subtle distinctions by means of prosody.

Second, accounts such as the CFH are supported by the present data. These
results are basically supported by the syntax speakers used: i.e., the so-
called ‘initial bare shi4-clefts’ (Paul & Whitman 2008). Based on these results
one may suggest a contrast-related communicative function that is (quasi-
)independent from the semantic process of replacing propositional content to
be implemented in the PENTA model.

Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Syntax
Chinese Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin
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Versions:
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9783862885114
Pages: 182
Prices: Europe EURO 65.80