The discussion of meiyou in current literature is restricted to the sentential level

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Chapter One

Introduction 1.1 Motivation and aims

Negation is an important issue in linguistic studies. It has played a central role in linguistic investigations because of the contrast between the simplicity of logic negation, i.e., negation of the truth value of a proposition, and the complexity of the form and function of negation in language use (Horn and Kato 2000:1). In Mandarin Chinese, negatives, such as bu, mei/meiyou1, and bie are popular topics for discussion (see Li and Thompson 1981, 1997, Chu 1999). Bu is more emphasized since it is considered as the neutral negative form (Li and Thompson 1981, Wiedenhof 1993), and the functions of bu and bie are discussed in detail in imperatives (Li and Thompson 1981). Mei, which is regarded as the negator of the existential verb you, receives less attention, let alone meiyou, which is considered as one of the alternative form of mei.

The discussion of meiyou in current literature is restricted to the sentential level.

(1980), for instance, takes meiyou as an adverbial or a verb that negates the existence/possession of an entity, e.g., wo meiyou sheme dongxi song gei ni

‘I have nothing to send to you’, or occurrence of an event, e.g., wo meiyou qu ‘I didn’t go’. However, the following example extracted from spoken discourse shows that meiyou does not serve such a function:

1 Mei is considered to be the alternative form of meiyou with the deletion of you (see Li and Thompson



1 ? zenme turan xiang zhuan dao ziran zu?

why suddently want transfer to nature class ‘Why did you want to transfer to the class of science?’

> 2 ! meiyou la!


3 …, jiu…, DM ‘(I)…,’

4 . xiang huan ge huanjing.

want change CLF environment ‘want to transfer to a new environment.’

In example (1.1), meiyou occurs at the initial position of an utterance (lines 2-4). It is not the constituent of a single sentence. Nor does it negate the truth value of a proposition, the existence/possession of an entity, or the occurrence of an event. It shows that meiyou serves a different function in spoken discourse, which would be unobservable in sentence-based studies. Therefore, a discourse-based study has to account for such functions.

The purpose of this thesis is to discuss (1) the discourse functions of meiyou, and (2) the possible tendency for the semantic variation of meiyou in spoken Mandarin discourse. The research questions are: (1) What functions does meiyou serve in spoken Mandarin discourse? (2) What are the relationships among these functions? (3) What is the semantic variation of meiyou? (4) What are the possible factors in such a variation?


1.2 Methodology

This thesis conducts a synchronic study in the functions of meiyou in Taiwan Mandarin spoken discourse. The framework adopted in this study is Conversation Analysis (CA). CA is an empirical approach that avoids intuition-based analysis (Levinson 1983:286-7), and it is a bottom-up approach that induces general features in conversation from various tokens. CA also emphasizes cross-textual comparisons, which can reveal the systematic properties of conversation, and the function of utterances in conversation organization (Levinson 1983:287). Section 1.2.1 and 1.2.2 describe the data collection and transcription conventions.

1.2.1 Data collection

The data in this study consist of recordings of spoken Taiwan Mandarin among native speakers. Daily conversation and TV programs are the two data sources.

Daily conversation, including face-to-face conversation and telephone conversation, is the most common spoken mode of communication since the topic is not specified.

The talk in TV programs is similar to conversation, except that it is based on pre-arranged topics. In this study, 106 stretches of talk are collected, and 266 tokens of meiyou are identified. The length of the data is 2.5 hours in total. The speakers include both males and females, and their age is between 18 and 40.

1.2.2 Transcription conventions

All the stretches of talk are transcribed into intonation units (IU), and the transcription follows the outline presented by Du Bois et al. (1993). An IU is ‘a sequence of words combined under a single, coherent intonation contour, usually preceded by a pause’ (Chafe 1987:22). Nevertheless, pauses are not the primary


criterion for the identification of an IU, since (1) they may occur in a single IU, or (2) they sometimes would not occur between two IUs (Tao 1996:38). An IU also tends to be marked by the rising pitch of the beginning syllable and the lengthening of the final syllable (Du Bois et al 1993, Tao 1996). It contains the phonological realization of linguistic structure and expresses the speaker’s ideas of objects, events, and properties (Chafe 1987, 1994). The ideas can be given, accessible, or new information (Chafe 1987:25), and each IU contains only one new idea at a time (Chafe 1994:108). In this study, each IU is marked by number, the line where meiyou occurs is indicated by the symbol ‘>’, and the token is written in italics and

boldface for ease of reading. All of the IUs are transcribed into Chinese characters at the first line, followed by pinyin at the second line, and the morphemic gloss at the third line. The free translation of the IU is given at the fourth line. The transcription is illustrated by (1.2).


1 A: ? ni zai ganma?

2SG DUR do what ‘What are you doing?’

>2 B: . meiyou wo zai da diannao.

MEIYOU 1SG DUR play computer ‘Nothing I’m using the computer.’

1.3 Organization of this thesis

In the following, Chapter 2 reviews literature on (1) negation in Mandarin Chinese and other languages, (2) discourse functions of lexical items, (3) discourse functions of negatives, (4) the theoretical framework in this study, (5) the influence of


Taiwanese on Mandarin Chinese, and (6) the lexical meaning of meiyou. Chapter 3 analyzes the functions of meiyou at different levels of discourse. The functions of meiyou are classified into six sub-types: (1) negation, (2) mitigation, (3) evasion, (4)

revision, (5) turn-taking mechanism, and (6) topic-shift. It will be shown that these functions are related to the lexical meaning of meiyou. These six functions are compared so as to reveal their similarities and differences and their connections to one another. When compared together, these six functions can be further summarized as five sub-categories: (1) negation, (2) mitigation, (3) revision, (4) turn-taking, and (5) topic shift, with the evasion use incorporated into the revision function. The discourse uses of meiyou will be accounted for in terms of grammaticalization (Traugott 1988, 1989, 1995a,b). Chapter 4 is the conclusion and the suggestions for further studies.




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