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Ranhou as the discourse marker

Chapter 3. Methodology

3.2 Analytical framework

3.2.2 Ranhou as the discourse marker

“Why did Xiao-bu use the big one and Nu-nu use the small one?”

*MOT: 阿 努努 比較 大 還是 小布 比較 大?

a nu-nu bijiao da haishi xiao-bu bijiao da?

uh (name) more big or (name) more big

“Was Nu-nu bigger or was Xiao-bu bigger?”

*YIN: 小布.

xiao-bu . (name)

“Xiao-bu.”

3.2.2 Ranhou as the discourse marker

(1) Verbal filler:

When ranhou functions as verbal filler, it indicates that the speaker is thinking of what they are going to say or has some difficulty retrieving the words they wish to say.

So here ranhou functions to fill the empty time slot. It may occur after or before a pause, or it may end in an incomplete sentence and is then followed by another ranhou. Example 6 shows children’s verbal filler function of ranhou. In Example 6,

TIN’s verbal filler function of ranhou was followed by the sound lengthening and pause, indicating TIN was thinking of what she was going to say.

Example 6 (TIN, 2;10): TIN and her mother were reading a storybook.

*TIN: 等 什麼?

deng shenme?

wait what

“Who was (it) waiting for?”

*MOT: 等 奴奴 啊!

“(It) was waiting for Nu-nu.”

*MOT: 等 奴奴 來 啊!

deng nu-nu lai a!

wait (name) come PRT

“(It) was waiting for Nu-nu to come.”

*TIN: 然後 -: # 那 奴奴 為什麼 要 來?  ranhou-: # na nu-nu weishenme yao lai?

well x (name) why need come

“Well, why did Nu-nu come?”

*MOT: 奴奴 要 過來 幫忙 刷 油漆 啊!

nu-nu yao guolai bangmang shua youqi a!

(name) need come help brush paint PRT

“Nu-nu came to help to paint.”

In Example 7, YOU’s use of ranhou was not followed by any words, indicating ranhou here has the verbal filler function rather than the connective function. And it

was followed by another ranhou to connect the following utterance.

Example 7 (YOU, 5;3): YOU and his mother were reading a storybook about color changing of the caterpillar.

*YOU: 是 黑 的 然後 是 黑 白 黑 白 的.

shi hei de ranhou shi hei bai hei bai de.

COP black NOM then COP black white black white NOM

“(It) is black and then black and white.”

*MOT: 黑 白 黑 白 的 喔.

“Then when it turned green it grew like this.”

(2) Topic succession:

When ranhou serves as a topic succession function, it is used so that the transition from one speaker to another seems justified because one carries on the topic where the other speaker stops. It is a mechanism for turn-taking so that the interaction in the conversation seems coherent. Example 8 demonstrates children’s topic succession function of ranhou. In Example 8, LEE’s mother was talking about washing and cutting vegetables. When the mother stopped and it was LEE’s turn, LEE used the topic succession function of ranhou to carry on the topic about cutting vegetables so that the turn-taking seems smooth.

Example 8 (LEE, 5;2): LEE and her mother were washing vegetables.

*MOT: 好 先 洗一洗.

When ranhou is functioning as a resumptive opener, it does not establish a sequential relationship, but rather resumes the old topic just mentioned. Example 9 demonstrates children’s resumptive opener function of ranhou. In Example 9, BUO was playing with a toy car, fire engine. BUO’s mother asked BUO a question, but BUO did not immediately respond to that question. Instead, he used the resumptive opener function of ranhou to go back to the old topic “toy car” he wanted to talk about.

Example 9 (BUO, 3;2): BUO and his mother were playing with the toy car (fire engine).

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ok PFV x fire engine need back CRS “Ok. The fire engine is going to go back.”

*MOT: 今天 自己 吃飯 還是 給 李 老師 餵?

jintian ziji chifan haishi gei li laoshi wei?

today self have lunch or to Lee teacher feed

“(You) had lunch by yourself or Ms. Lee fed (you) today?”

*BUO: 今天 給 # <自己 吃> [//] 李 老師 餵.

jintian gei # <ziji chi> [//] li laoshi wei.

today to self eat Lee teacher feed “Ms. Lee fed (me) today.”

*BUO: 然後 它 就 會 失火 [% playing with the fire engine].  ranhou ta jiu hui shihuo [% playing with the fire engine].

well it just will fire

“It would catch fire.”

*BUO: 它 # /dung -: /.

ta # /dung -: /.

it bang “It banged.”

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Chapter 4

Results

This chapter presents the findings of the three research questions in the present study, respectively. The first research question, concerning the distribution of ranhou, including its frequency and its distribution as connectives or discourse markers, was shown in section 4.1. In section 4.2, regarding the second research question, the quantitative and qualitative analyses of children’s ranhou as connectives were analyzed, including the temporal, additive, causal, and contrast functions of ranhou.

In section 4.3, with regard to the third research question, the quantitative and qualitative analyses of children’s ranhou as discourse markers were analyzed, including the verbal filler, topic succession, and resumptive opener functions of ranhou.

4.1 The distribution of ranhou

Table 2 presents the frequency of ranhou used by all subjects in the two age groups. As seen in the table, all utterances in Group 1 and Group 2 were 4864 and 5105 respectively. Among the utterances, the utterances with ranhou in Group 1 and Group 2 were 82 and 130 respectively. As to the proportions of utterances with

ranhou in all utterances, Group 1 was 1.69% while Group 2 was 2.55%. It shows that

children’s use of ranhou in conversations increased with age. The results were inconsistent with Yeh’s (2011) findings, which suggested that the frequency of ranhou decreased with age.

Table 2

The Frequency of Ranhou in the Two Age Groups Subjects Utterances with

ranhou

All utterances % of utterances with ranhou

As shown in Table 2, younger children used less ranhou than older children.

However, YIN’s proportion of utterances with ranhou in all utterances was 4.04%, which was far more than other children in the same group. The possible reason may be that YIN used several consecutive uses of ranhou, which may increase the frequency of ranhou, and this use was not usually seen in other children’s data.

Example 10 shows YIN’s consecutive use of ranhou. In Example 10, YIN used ranhou three times in a row to connect her utterances, which were “then he goes to

school in Taipei,” “and I waited for him at home” and “then he sent a letter to me.”

Example 10 (YIN, 3;1): YIN and her mother were playing toys.

*MOT: 這麼 棒 喔.

zheme bang o.

so great PRT

“So great.”

*YIN: 然後 他 去 台北 上學.  ranhou ta qu taibei shangxue.

then he go Taipei go to school

“Then he goes to school in Taipei.”

*YIN: 然後 我 在 家裡 等 他. 

It appears that children in the younger group used less ranhou. However, SEN’s proportion of utterances with ranhou in all utterances was only 0.35%, which was far less than other children in the same group. The reason why SEN used fewer ranhou was not that clear. Several reasons which might have led to SEN’s few tokens of

ranhou were proposed. First, in other children’s data, the children’s mother sometimes

used utterances with ranhou to ask children questions to induce their children’s use of ranhou, but SEN’s mother rarely used utterances with ranhou in this way. The only

example in SEN’s data can be seen in Example 11. In Example 11, SEN’s mother used ranhou to ask SEN a question, and SEN answered the mother’s question with ranhou. Second, ranhou could be used to connect events or to make the conversation

more coherent. But in SEN’s data, most of his utterances were just a short reply to his mother, so ranhou might not occur in such circumstances.

Example 11 (SEN, 2;8): SEN and his mother were reading a storybook.

*MOT: 他 在 睡覺.

“Then Sun Wu-kong was kidnapped.”

In order to understand the distribution of the use of ranhou, the use of ranhou as

the connective or discourse marker for the two age groups was investigated. Table 3 shows the distribution of ranhou as the connective or discourse marker use. The proportion of utterances with connective use of ranhou in Group 1 and Group 2 was 1.40% and 1.55%, respectively. The proportion of utterances with discourse marker use of ranhou in Group 1 and Group 2 was 0.29% and 0.67%, respectively. Both groups used the connective use more than the discourse marker use of ranhou. It shows that the connective use slightly increased with age (from 1.40% to 1.55%), and the discourse marker use increased with age (from 0.29% to 0.67%), which increased more than the connective use.

Table 3

The Distribution of Ranhou as Connective Use or Discourse Marker Use Subjects Ranhou as connective

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4.2. Ranhou as the connective use

In order to further understand the use of ranhou, the distribution of each function of ranhou as the connective is investigated. Table 4 shows the proportion of different functions of ranhou as connectives in the two age groups. In Table 4, the temporal function in Group 1 was 86.76%. The additive function and the causal function in Group 1 only accounted for 8.82% and 2.94%. In Group 2, the temporal function decreases to 59.38% and the additive function and the causal function increase to 23.96% and 12.50%, respectively. The contrast function was 1.47% in Group 1 and 4.17% in Group 2, respectively. It shows that the temporal function decreased with age while the additive and causal functions increased with age. The contrast function was few in both groups.

Table 4

The Proportion of Different Functions of Ranhou as the Connective

Group 1 Group 2

Categories tokens % tokens %

Temporal 59 86.76 57 59.38

Additive 6 8.82 23 23.96

Causal 2 2.94 12 12.50

Contrast 1 1.47 4 4.17

Total 68 100 96 100

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4.2.1 Temporal function

Table 5 presents the tokens of children’s temporal function of ranhou in the two groups. As shown in Table 5, in Group 1 and Group 2, all subjects used the temporal function of ranhou. It may suggest that younger children are already capable of using the temporal function of ranhou, and it may also indicate that the temporal function of ranhou has such common usage in all functions of ranhou.

Table 5

The Tokens of Temporal Function of Ranhou for All Subjects in the Two Groups

Subjects Tokens

Group 1 SEN 2

TIN 9 YIN 35 BUO 13

Total 59

Group 2 XUN 8

QIN 17 LEE 19 YOU 13

Total 57

The qualitative analysis was conducted to understand the characteristics of children’s temporal function of ranhou. First, temporal function of ranhou occurred in a variety of situations, but the observation showed that it occurred more in a book-reading context than other contexts, as shown in Example 12. In Example 12,

BUO and his mother were reading a storybook. BUO was asked to tell a story to his mother. After BUO said that the moon had come out, he continued his story by using the temporal function of ranhou to say that they wanted to go to sleep. Second, the temporal function of ranhou was often combined with a question particle such as “ne”

or “lie” to form a question, as shown in Example 13. In Example 13, XUN’s mother asked XUN to eat their breakfast faster, but XUN kept eating it slowly. The mother said that she would keep waiting until her hair turned gray. XUN used the temporal function of ranhou plus the question particle “lie” to ask “and then,” wanting to know what would happen next.

Example 12 (BUO, 3;2): BUO and his mother were reading a storybook.

*BUO: 今天 晚上 月亮 都 出來 了.

jintian wanshang yueliang dou chulai le.

today night moon all come out PFV

“Tonight the moon has come out.”

*MOT: 嗯.

Example 13 (XUN, 4;0): XUN’s mother asked XUN to eat their breakfast faster.

*MOT: 你 在 長大 我 在 變 老 /ei/.

ni zai zhangda wo zai bian lao /ei/.

you DUR grow up I DUR become old PRT

“You’re growing up and I’m getting old.”

*MOT: 你 不 要 # 等 到 我 頭髮 都 變 白 掉.

ni bu yao # deng dao wo toufa dou bian bai diao.

you NEG want wait reach I hair all become white fall

“I don’t want to wait until my hair turn gray.”

*XUN: 然後 咧?

“Then the green worm will grow on the top of the bread.”

As to the difference of the temporal function of ranhou between Group 1 and Group 2, the observation was as follows. In Group 1, children usually used the temporal function of ranhou in the here-and-now situation; that is, referring to the referents which are present in the physical context of the conversation (Huang, 2003), as illustrated in Example 14. In Example 14, YIN and her mother were reading a storybook. YIN’s mother mentioned the full moon and crescent moon in the storybook, saying that they were all moons but with different shapes. YIN said that she covered the full moon in the storybook by her hands, and she used the temporal function of ranhou to say “and then I hang the moon (covered by hands) here.” Ranhou here

connects YIN’s two actions of time sequence and is thus regarded as a temporal

function. The referent is the moon in the storybook, which is a here-and-now referent.

In Group 2, in addition to using the temporal function of ranhou in the here-and-now situation, children were more likely to use the temporal function of ranhou in the there-and-then situation; that is, referring to the referents which are absent in the physical context of the conversation (Huang, 2003), as illustrated in Example 15. In Example 15, QIN’s mother asked QIN if he remembered the show they watched the day before yesterday. QIN used the temporal function of ranhou to mention what the character “grandpa” did in the show. The referent “grandpa” is absent in the physical context of the conversation. Thus he used the temporal function of ranhou in the there-and-then situation.

Example 14 (YIN, 3;1): YIN and her mother were reading a storybook.

*MOT: 彎彎 的 半 圓 形 圓 形 通通 都 是 月亮 阿.

wanwan de ban yuan xing yuan xing tongtong dou shi yueliang a.

curve NOM half round shape round shape every all COP moon PRT

“The crescent moon and full moon are all moons.”

*MOT: 是不是 有 時候 都 不 一樣? cover the full moon by half].

<a> [/] a mami # ba na yi ge zhe qilai [% sticking out hands to

cover the full moon by half].

ah ah mom BA that one CL cover up

“Mom, cover it up (by hands).”

*YIN: 然後 掛 在 這裡 [= besides the crescent moon].  ranhou gua zai zheli [= besides the crescent moon].

then hang at here

“Then hang it here.”

*YIN: 就 好像 半 圓 形.

jiu haoxiang ban yuan xing.

just like half round shape

“(It) looks like the crescent moon.”

Example 15 (QIN, 4;11): QIN’s mother asked QIN if he remembered the show they watched the day before yesterday.

*MOT: 那 後來 呢 後來 呢?

then grandpa grandpa have once just pee half

“Then once the grandpa was peeing.”

*QIN: 然後 豆太 [= the main character] 就 尿 一半.

ranhou dou-tai [= the main character] jiu niao yiban.

then (name) just pee half

Table 6 presents the tokens of children’s additive function of ranhou in the two groups. As shown in Table 6, in Group 1, only two subjects (TIN and YIN) used the

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additive function of ranhou. In Group 2, all of the subjects used the additive function of ranhou. It indicates that older children were more capable of using the additive function of ranhou.

Table 6

The Tokens of Additive Function of Ranhou for All Subjects in the Two Groups

Subjects Tokens

Group 1 SEN 0

TIN 3 YIN 3 BUO 0

Total 6

Group 2 XUN 5

QIN 4 LEE 10 YOU 4

Total 23

The characteristics of children’s additive function of ranhou were observed.

Different from the temporal function of ranhou which occurred more in book-reading, children’s additive function of ranhou occurred more in a toy-playing context, as shown in Example 16. In Example 16, TIN and her mother were playing with some colored balls, and the mother asked TIN to identify the color of the balls. After TIN realized that “this is a blue ball,” she took a green ball and used the additive function of ranhou to say “and this is green.”

Example 16 (TIN, 2;10): TIN and her mother were playing with toys.

*TIN: 這 個 是 什麼 [% holding a blue ball in hands]?

As for the difference of the additive function of ranhou between Group 1 and Group 2, the findings were as follows. First, children in Group 1 tended to use the additive function of ranhou to add concrete entities while children in Group 2 would probably use it to add abstract concepts. Children’s additive function of ranhou in Group 1 was demonstrated in Example 17. When YIN was playing with toys with the mother, YIN said “a pot is going to cook grapes” and used ranhou to add “a pot is going to cook corn.” The object “pot” and “corn” are concrete objects that can be seen in the real world. Example 18 demonstrates children’s additive function of ranhou in

Group 2. In Example 18, LEE and her mother were playing cards, and LEE mentioned that “these two cards lost.” When MOT asked LEE “how about this card,”

LEE used the additive function of ranhou to say “and this card also lost.” The concept of “losing” is abstract. Second, children in Group 2 sometimes used the consecutive additive function of ranhou, which was not seen for children in Group 1. Example 19 shows subject XUN’s consecutive additive function of ranhou in Group 2. In Example 19, XUN was playing with the blocks. He mentioned that “the block was big,” and used the additive function of ranhou to say “there is a bigger block.” And after that XUN used another ranhou to add “this one is bigger than it.”

Example 17 (YIN, 3;1): YIN pretended to cook something.

*YIN: 媽媽 還 有 一 個 鍋子 要 煮 葡萄 的.

“And a pot was going to cook corn.”

Example 18 (LEE, 5;1): LEE and her mother were playing cards.

* LEE: 嗯 -: 這 一 張 輸.

en -: zhe yi zhang shu.

<zhe liang zhang> [/] zhe liang zhang shu.

these two CL these two CL lose

<ranhou zhe> [<] yi zhang # zhe yi zhang # ye shu [=! laughing].

and this one CL this one CL also lose

“And this (card) also lost.”

*MOT: 也 輸 [=! laughing].

ye shu [=! laughing].

also lose

“(It) also lost.”

Example 19 (XUN, 4;0): XUN was playing with blocks.

*XUN: 它 [= block] 大 胖子.

“And (it’s) much bigger than it.”

*XUN: 它 想 比 它 大.

ta xiang bi ta da.

it want compare it big

“It wants to be bigger than it.”

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4.2.3 Causal function

Table 7 presents the tokens of children’s causal function of ranhou in the two groups. As shown in Table 7, two subjects (SEN and YIN) used the causal function of ranhou in Group 1 while three subjects (XUN, LEE, and YOU) used it in Group 2. It

appears that more subjects in Group 2 used causal function of ranhou than subjects in Group 1.

Table 7

The Tokens of Causal Function of Ranhou for All Subjects in the Two Groups

The Tokens of Causal Function of Ranhou for All Subjects in the Two Groups

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