Edited by Ni-Eng Lim
[Chinese Language and Discourse 10:2] 2019
► pp. 187–223
What are speakers doing when they pretend to be uncertain?
Actions with non-committal epistemic stance in Mandarin Conversation
This paper investigates conversational actions accomplished by a knowing speaker who takes a non-committal epistemic stance using epistemic adverbs expressing uncertainty in Mandarin conversations. This study finds that adverbs of uncertainty such as keneng, yexu, and dagai, are used predominantly by knowing speakers, rather than unknowing speakers in Mandarin conversations. Moreover, most of these epistemically incongruent cases occur in sequence-initiating actions. Three most common practices are announcements involved in a request project, announcements of self-related positive news, and advice-giving actions. Adverbs of uncertainty are less frequently used by knowing speakers to take a non-committal stance in the sequence-responsive actions. A common practice observed is responses to information-seeking questions that have negative valence. Adverbs of uncertainty are adopted by knowing speakers to minimize disaffiliation caused by these dispreferred actions such as requests, self-praising of accomplishments, advice-giving, and informing with negative valence.
- 2.Review of key concepts
- 2.1Action in interaction
- 2.2Non-committal stance and epistemic adverbs expressing uncertainty
- 2.3Defining a knowing speaker: Epistemic stance and epistemic status in Conversation Analysis
- 3.Methods and data
- 4.Findings and discussion
- 4.1.1Who is taking non-committal stances with adverbs of uncertainty?
- 4.1.2Sequence position of non-committal stances
- 4.2Sequence-initiating actions with non-committal stance
- 4.2.1Announcement in a request project
- 4.2.2Announcement of self-related positive future events
- 4.2.3Giving advice
- 4.3Actions accomplished with non-committal epistemic stance in responsive actions
- 5.Concluding discussion