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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Allyson ETTINGER

Co-Auteur(s): Sophia A. MALAMUD, Brandeis University, USA

Mandarin utterance-final particle ba in the conversational scoreboard

Abstract/Résumé: We explore the meaning of the Mandarin particle BA in interaction with the utterance to which it attaches (the anchor) and the context. Previous literature on BA contains no unified generalization - effects claimed by various scholars include uncertainty, soliciting agreement/confirmation, or politeness. To arrive at a unified descriptive generalization and clarify the distribution of the particle, we conducted a corpus study of BA using Mandarin-language television and film (95 tokens). We observe that BA anchors include assertions, directives, commissives, and sub-sentential tags, and we make the novel descriptive generalization that BA creates a confirmation-seeking or softening effect when anchors represent proposals initiated by the speaker, and an effect of uncertainty or reluctant agreement when anchors represent proposals that are already “in play”. We argue that these effects of BA can be traced to a single underlying function: BA transfers the authority for the conversational move represented by the anchor away from the speaker, making the effects of the anchor contingent on hearer's approval [cf. Gunlogson 2008]. To model contingent moves, we propose a conversational scoreboard in which interlocutors’ contributions target the Common Ground (the intersection of interlocutors’ public commitments) [Gunlogson 2003, 2008, a.o.], or a To-Do-List of one or more interlocutors [Portner 2007]. Moves often fall short of putting content on target domains, which must be updated collaboratively. Thus, a move initiating a proposal to update a target domain will fall short until the hearer agrees, and will instead direct its content to the Table component [Farkas and Bruce 2010, a.o.]. The Table determines what’s at-issue [Roberts 1996, a.o.]. Departing from prior models, we claim that the objects on the Table are sets of potential updates of target domains. We articulate the Table into two parts: Table1choices , which establishes the conversational goals conceptualized as a choice of one or more updates . Table2propose proposes a single move to update a target domain (CG or TDL). BA marks the single update conveyed by the anchor as destined for Table1choices, leaving it up to the hearer to advance this content to Table2propose or to a target domain. The effects of softening/soliciting confirmation follow from this delegation of authority; the effects of speaker uncertainty/reluctance are derived as implicatures. Our model allows a handle on the meta-linguistic nature of contingent moves, and a unified treatment of assertions, directives, and commissives.