A unified account of causal clause sequences in Mandarin Chinese and its implications
Causal clauses introduced by yīnwèi in Chinese can have either an initial position or a final position with regard to the main clause. While traditional grammars have treated the initial sequence as the default form, numerous discourse-based studies have shown just the opposite. However, few have attempted to explain why both sequence orders exist and why they have skewed distribution patterns across discourse registers. In this paper we use a telephone conversation corpus and a written Chinese corpus as data and provide a comprehensive analysis of the usage patterns. Our main findings are that final and initial causal clause sequences are ostensibly two different linguistic constructions, functioning as an interactional device and an information-sharing device, respectively. Quantitative distributional disparities are seen as a function of the discourse utilities of the linguistic devices in question and the communicative demands of different registers. From a cross-linguistic perspective, our findings raise questions about the ways in which universal and language-specific properties of clause sequencing can be better understood.
Keywords: causal clause, spoken and written Chinese, clause combining, discourse and grammar
Published online: 19 January 2009
Cited by 9 other publications
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