Article published in:The interface of semantics & etymology, morpho-syntax, and pragmatics in Chinese
Edited by Jeeyoung Peck
[Language and Linguistics 20:2] 2019
► pp. 256–281
Degree intensifiers as expressives in Mandarin Chinese
In this paper, we provide an empirical description and a theoretical analysis of the adverbial use of hǎo ‘(lit.) good’, lǎo ‘(lit.) old’, and guài ‘(lit.) strange’ in Mandarin Chinese. The three adverbs represent a small yet theoretically interesting class of lexical items. Because they manifest certain similarities to canonical degree adverbs such as hěn ‘very’ and fēicháng ‘extremely’, they have been usually treated as pure degree adverbs in the descriptive linguistics literature. Empirical evidence, however, shows that these adverbs actually fuse together both degree intensification and expressive meanings. For instance, they convey strong emotion on the part of the speaker and cannot appear in non-veridical contexts such as negation, modals, information-seeking questions, and antecedents of conditionals. We argue that hǎo, lǎo, and guài are mixed-content lexical items. Based on their empirical behaviors, we follow recent advances in multidimensional semantics to propose a hybrid formal analysis of hǎo, lǎo, and guài by incorporating degree semantics into a multidimensional logic for conventional implicature.
Keywords: expressives, degree adverbs, degree intensification, multidimensional semantics, Mandarin Chinese
Published online: 05 April 2019
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