Vol. 4:1 (2013) ► pp.35–73
Appearances are not skin deep
On the status of de yangzi as an inferential marker in colloquial Mandarin discourse
This paper investigates the functions of a previously neglected collocation, the nominalizer 的 de and the noun 樣子 yàngzi ‘appearance’ (DYZ) in colloquial Mandarin discourse. DYZ is shown to be either denotational or non-denotational. In the denotational use, yàngzi denotes various entity concepts, including bodily appearances, behavioral demeanor, and visual percepts of an event. In the non-denotational use, however, yàngzi does not denote, but instead, in tandem with the nominalizer de, functions as an inferential marker, meaning a grammatical device that indicates inference or assumption on the part of the speaker while at the same time signaling the speaker’s medium epistemic certainty about a statement. The underlying mechanism of recruiting the noun for “appearance” to mark inferentials may be attributable to the widespread conceptualization of basing the epistemology of perception on “how things look” (Lyons 2005).
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