Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-768dbb666b-v9bzm Total loading time: 1.159 Render date: 2023-02-06T01:15:55.686Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

29 - An Interactive Perspective on Topic Constructions in Mandarin

Some New Findings Based on Natural Conversation

from Part Four - Syntax-semantics, Pragmatics, and Discourse Issues

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2022

Chu-Ren Huang
Affiliation:
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Yen-Hwei Lin
Affiliation:
Michigan State University
I-Hsuan Chen
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Yu-Yin Hsu
Affiliation:
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Get access

Summary

While Chinese is widely considered a topic-prominent language and 'topic' may be a useful notion for describing some of the unique grammatical features of Chinese, natural text/speech data call for a re-examination of its nature and the ways in which it is manifested and deployed in discourse. My multiple genre-based investigation shows that at a ratio of 4 percent to all clauses, topic constructions are a very rare type of construction in Chinese discourse among all the possible types of syntactic constructions. As such, the status of topic constrictions in Chinese needs to be rethought. An examination of the use of topic constructions in spontaneous conversation shows a number of surprising patterns, including: (1) topic is best described as located at speaker turn transition places; (2) topical elements are subject to speaker negotiation, so they do not have to be definite, identifiable, or shared at the time of the utterance; and (3) topical elements function quite differently in interaction depending on whether they are self-initiated, self-repeated, or other-initiated.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Biq, Yung-O. 1995. Chinese causal sequencing and yinwei in conversation and press reportage. Berkeley Linguistic Society 21:4760.Google Scholar
Bland, Susan R. Kesner, 1981. Topic/comment sentences in English. Cornell Working Papers in Linguistics, vol. 2, 3249. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.Google Scholar
Button, Graham, and Casey, Neil. 1984. Generating topic: The use of topic initial elicitors. In Structures of social action. Studies in conversation analysis, ed. Maxwell Atkinson, J. and Heritage, John, 167189. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Button, Graham, and Casey, Neil. 1985. Topic nomination and topic pursuit. Human Studies 8:355.Google Scholar
Canavan, Alexandra, and Zipperlen, George. 1996. CALLFRIEND Mandarin Chinese-Mainland dialect. Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Philadelphia. https://catalog.ldc.upenn.edu/LDC96S55.Google Scholar
Chafe, Wallace. 1976. Givenness, contrastiveness, definiteness, subjects, topics, and point of view. In Subject and topic, ed. Li, Charles, 2556. New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Chafe, Wallace. 1987. Cognitive constraints on information flow. In Coherence and grounding in discourse, ed. Tomlin, R., 2151. Amsterdam: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chafe, Wallace. 1994. Discourse, consciousness, and time: The flow and displacement of conscious experience in speaking and writing. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Chao, Yuen Ren. 1968. A grammar of spoken Chinese. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Chen, Jing, and Yuan, Gao 陈静, 高远. 2000. Is Chinese a topic-prominent language? 汉语是主题突出的语言吗? Foreign Languages and Language Teaching 外语与外语教学 5:1114.Google Scholar
Chen, Keh-Jiann, Luo, Chi-Ching, Chang, Ming-Chung, Chen, Feng-Yi, Chen, Chao-Jan, Huang, Chu-Ren, and Gao, Zhao-Ming. 2003. Sinica Treebank: Design criteria, representational issues and implementation. In Treebanks: Building and using parsed corpora, ed. Abeillé, Anne, 231248. Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chen, Ping. 1996. Pragmatic interpretations of structural topics and relativization in Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics 26(3):389406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chu, Chauncey C. 1993. The prototypicality of topic in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association 28(1):2548.Google Scholar
Clancy, Patricia M., Thompson, Sandra A., Suzuki, Ryoko, and Tao, Hongyin. 1996. The conversational use of reactive tokens in Japanese, Mandarin, and English. Journal of Pragmatics 26(1):355387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, Herbert, and Brennan, Susan E. 1991. Grounding in communication. In Perspectives on socially shared cognition, ed. Resnick, Lauren. B., Levine, John M., and Teasley, Stephanie D., 127149. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, Herbert, and Wilkes-Gibbs, Deanna. 1986, Referring as a collaborative process. Cognition 22(1):l39.Google ScholarPubMed
Du Bois, John W. 1987. The discourse basis of ergativity. Language 63(4):805855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Du Bois, John W., Schuetze-Coburn, Stephan, Cumming, Susanna, and Paolino, Danae. 1993. Outline of Discourse Transcription. In Talking data: Transcription and coding methods for discourse research, ed. Edwards, Jane A. and Lampert, Martin D., 4589. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Duranti, Alessandro. 1986. The audience as co-author. Text 6(3):239247.Google Scholar
Ford, Cecilia E. 1993. Grammar in interaction: Adverbial clauses in American English conversations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ford, Cecilia E., and Thompson, Sandra A.. 1995. Interactional units in conversation: Syntactic, intonational, and pragmatic resources for the management of turns. In Interaction and Grammar, ed. Ochs, Elinor, Schegloff, Emanuel A., and Thompson, Sandra. A., 134184. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Geluykens, Ronald. 1988. The interactional nature of referent-introduction. Chicago Linguistics Society 24:141154.Google Scholar
Goodwin, Charles. 1979. The interactive construction of a sentence in natural conversation. In Everyday language: Studies in ethnomethodology, ed. Psathas, George, 97121. New York, NY: Irvington.Google Scholar
Goodwin, Charles. 1986. Audience diversity, participation and interpretation. Text 6(3):283316.Google Scholar
Goodwin, Charles, and Goodwin, Marjorie Harness. 1992. Assessments and the construction of context. In Rethinking context, ed. Goodwin, Charles and Duranti, Alessandro, 147189. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Heritage, John. 2007. Intersubjectivity and progressivity in references to persons (and places). In Person reference in interaction: Linguistic, cultural and social perspectives, ed. Stivers, Tanya and Enfield, Nick J., 255280. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huang, C.-T. James. 1984. On the distribution and reference of empty pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 15(4):531574.Google Scholar
Huang, Chu-Ren, and Chen, Keh-jiann. 2017. Sinica Treebank. In Handbook of linguistic annotation, ed. Ide, Nancy and Pustejovsky, James, 641657. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
Keenan, Elinor Ochs, and Schieffelin, Bambi. 1976. Foregrounding referents: A reconsideration of left dislocation in discourse. Berkeley Linguistics Society 2:240257.Google Scholar
Lambrecht, Knud. 1987. On the status of SVO sentences in French discourse. In Coherence and grounding in discourse, ed. Tomlin, Russell S., 217261. Amsterdam: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
LaPolla, Randy J. 1993. Arguments against ‘subject’ and ‘direct object’ as viable concepts in Chinese. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology 63(4):759813.Google Scholar
LaPolla, Randy J. 1995. Pragmatic relations and word order in Chinese. In Word order in discourse, ed. Downing, Pamela and Noonan, Michael, 299331. Amsterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar
LaPolla, Randy J. 2009. Chinese as a topic-comment (not topic-prominent and not SVO) language. In Studies of Chinese linguistics: Functional approaches, ed., Xing, Janet, 922. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.Google Scholar
Li, Charles N., and Thompson, Sandra A.. 1976. Subject and topic: A new typology of language. In Subject and topic, ed. Li, Charles N., 457489. New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Lim, Ni-Eng. 2013. Retroactive operations: On ‘increments’ in Mandarin Chinese conversations. Doctoral thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
Lim, Ni-Eng. 2019. On co-operative modalities in the formulation of Mandarin Chinese turn-continuations. In Multimodality in Chinese interaction, ed. Li, Xiaoting and Ono, Tsuyoshi, 213254. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Liu, Linjun 刘林军. 2010. A cognitive-functional approach to topic constructions in Beijing Mandarin 北京话口语中话题结构的功能认知研究. Beijing: Chinese Social Sciences Document Press.Google Scholar
Luke, K. K. 2012. Dislocation or afterthought? A conversation analytic account of incremental sentences in Chinese. Discourse Processes 49:338365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luo, Zhensheng, and Zheng, Bixia 罗振声, 郑碧霞. 1994. An approach to the automatic analysis and frequency statistics of Chinese sentence patterns 汉语句型自动分析和分布统计算法与策略的研究. Journal of Chinese Information Processing 中文信息学报 8(2):119.Google Scholar
Ochs, Elinor. 1996. Linguistic resources for socializing humanity. In Rethinking linguistic relativity, ed. Gumperz, John J. and Levinson, Stephen C., 407437. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Ono, Tsuyoshi, and Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth, 2007. Increments in cross-linguistic perspective: Introductory remarks. Pragmatics 17(4):505512. doi:10.1075/prag.17.4.01ono.Google Scholar
Pomerantz, Anita. 1984. Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features found in preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In Structures of social action, ed. Maxwell Atkinson, J. and Heritage, John, 57101. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Sacks, Harvey, Schegloff, Emanuel A., and Jefferson, Gail. 1974. A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language 50(4):696735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schegloff, Emanuel A., Jefferson, Gail, and Sacks, Harvey. 1977. The preference for self-correction in the organization of repair in conversation. Language 53(2):361382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shen, Xiaolong 申小龙. 1988. Chinese sentence patterns and cultural explanations 中国句型文化. Changchun: Northeastern Normal University Press.Google Scholar
Shi, Dingxu. 2000. Topic and topic-comment constructions in Mandarin Chinese. Language 76(2):383408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Song, Zuoyan, and Tao, Hongyin. 宋作艳, 陶红印. 2008. A comparative study of Chinese and English causal clause sequences in discourse 汉英因果复句顺序的话语分析与比较. Chinese Linguistics 汉语学报 24(4):6471.Google Scholar
Song, Zuoyan, and Tao, Hongyin, 2009. A unified account of causal clause sequences in Mandarin Chinese and its implications. Studies in Language 33(1):69102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stivers, Tanya. 2008. Stance, alignment, and affiliation during storytelling: When nodding is a token of affiliation. Research on Language and Social Interaction 41(1):3157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Su, Danjie. 2016. Grammar emerges through reuse and modification of prior utterances. Discourse Studies 18(3):330353.Google Scholar
Tai, James H-Y., and Hu, Wenze. 1991. Functional motivations for the so-called ‘inverted sentences’ in Beijing conversational discourse. Journal of Chinese Language Teachers Association 26(3):75104.Google Scholar
Tao, Hongyin. 1992. NP intonation units and referent identification. Berkeley Linguistic Society 18:237247.Google Scholar
Tao, Hongyin. 1996. Units in Mandarin conversation: Prosody, discourse, and grammar. Amsterdam: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tao, Hongyin. 2001. Some interactive functions of topic constructions in Mandarin conversation. In Proceedings of the Joint Meetings of the 10th International Association for Chinese Linguistics and the 13th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics, 317331. Los Angeles, CA: Graduate Students in Linguistics Publications, University of Southern California [Chinese translation by 乐耀 Yue Yao in Studies in Linguistics 语言学论丛 36:363–376, Beijing: Commercial Press, 2007].Google Scholar
Tao, Hongyin. 2020. NP clustering in Mandarin conversational interaction. In The ‘noun phrase’ across languages: An emergent unit in interaction, ed. Thompson, Sandra A. and Ono, Tsuyoshi, 271314. Amsterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar
Tao, Hongyin, and Meyer, Charles F.. 2006. Gapped coordinations in English: Form, usage, and implications for linguistic theory. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 2(2):129163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tao, Hongyin, and Xiao, Zhonghua. 2007. The UCLA Chinese Corpus. Lancaster: UCREL.Google Scholar
Thompson, Sandra A. 1984. Subordination in formal and informal discourse. In Meaning, form, and use in context: Linguistic applications, ed. Schffrin, D., 8594. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
Tsai, Wei-Tien Dylan. 2022. Topicalization Defined by Syntax. The syntax of classifiers in Mandarin Chinese. In The Cambridge handbook of Chinese linguistics, ed. Huang, Chu-Ren, Lin, Yen-Hwei, Chen, I-Hsuan, and Hsu, Yu-Yin, 616634. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Tsao, Feng-fu. 1979. A functional study of topic in Chinese: The first step towards discourse analysis. Taipei: Student Book Co.Google Scholar
Tsao, Feng-fu. 1988. Topic and clause connectives in Chinese. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology 59(3):695737.Google Scholar
Tsao, Feng-fu. 1990. Sentence and clause structure in Chinese: A functional perspective. Taipei: Student Book Co.Google Scholar
Wang, Jie, Pan, Qingyun, and Liu, Suzhen 王洁, 潘庆云, 刘愫贞. 1997. A course in forensic linguistics 法律语言学教程. Beijing: Law Press China.Google Scholar
Wang, Yu-Fang. 1995. A corpus-based study of adverbial clauses in Mandarin Chinese conversation: A preliminary analysis. In Proceedings of PACLIC 10, 237241. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
Wu, Weiping 吴伟平. 2002. Language and law: Studies in forensic linguistics 语言与法律 : 关于司法领域语言问题的研究. Shanghai: Foreign Language Education Press.Google Scholar
Xu, Liejiong, and Liu, Danqing. 徐烈炯, 刘丹青. 1998. Structure and functions of topics 话题的结构与功能. Shanghai: Shanghai Educational Publishing House.Google Scholar
Xu, Liejiong and Langendoen, Terence. 1985. Topic structures in Chinese. Language 61(1):127.Google Scholar
Yao, Shuangyun, and Hongyuan, Liu 姚双云,刘红原. 2020. Topic structure in Mandarin interaction 汉语会话互动中的话题结构. Contemporary Rhetoric 当代修辞学 2020(6):6277.Google Scholar
Zhang, Bojiang, and Fang, Mei. 张伯江, 方梅. 1996. Functional studies of Chinese grammar 汉语功能语法研究. Nanchang: Jiangxi Education Publishing House.Google Scholar
Zhao, Shuhua, Liu, Shehui, and Hu 赵淑华, Xiang, 刘社会, 胡翔. 1997. Statistics and analysis of single sentences in Chinese 单句句型统计与分析. Language Teaching and Research 语言教学与研究 18(2):6173.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×