Choosing the unmarked passive construction in Chinese conversation
Why do speakers choose the Mandarin Chinese unmarked passive construction (UP) in conversation when they have other grammatical alternatives with roughly the same semantics? From the perspective of subjectivity, this study identifies the Factuality lens, a lens through which a situation is presented as a “fact” or a “truth” regardless of reality. My analysis of a video corpus of spontaneous talk show conversations using the discourse adjacent alternation method reveals that speakers tend to choose UP over other constructions to present a transitive event through the Factuality lens by emphasizing the factuality of a fact or making a non-fact appear as a fact – either deceivingly or openly in a fictitious narrative or a joke. The findings reveal that grammatical constructions can linguistically recreate a situation different from reality. The conclusion that Factuality lens is a factor that could influence speakers’ grammatical choice casts light on pragmatic consequence of grammatical choice and subjectivity in language use.
Keywords: lens, subjectivity, stance, pragmatics, alternation, Mandarin, grammar
Published online: 11 June 2021