Now and xianzai
A contrastive study of two deictic adverbs
The present study looks at the deictic adverbs now and 現在 (xianzai) and examines their respective roles in English and Chinese. Now and xianzai are commonly considered to be semantically equivalent. Their primary value is temporal: both now and xianzai refer to the time of utterance, or more generally to a temporal interval which includes the time of utterance. By examining a parallel corpus of Taiwanese and English novels, this paper aims to show that apart from this present-reference value, now and xianzai have little in common. The analysis of aligned texts reveals that: (1) now is more frequent than xianzai; (2) there is an asymmetry in the temporal use of both markers. Following Wang (2001), I argue that now has a wider semantic range than xianzai: whereas now might be used pragmatically (Now, why on earth did she leave at such a time?), xianzai is limited to strict temporal reference. It appears that even in its temporal use, now is more complex than xianzai; now is quasi-systematically contrastive, whereas xianzai tends to be purely deictic. We conclude that now is closer in function to the Chinese particle le than to the adverb xianzai.
Keywords: , , particle , temporal deixis, Chinese/English
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