Analysis of the Pragmatic Uses of the Discourse Markers na 那 and ranhou 然后 in a Corpus of Radio Conversations in Chinese Language Recorded in Taiwan

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Features of language are not exclusively aimed at summoning events, they can show the speaker’s standpoint and they can also influence other people’s viewpoint and behaviour; in an authentic linguistic environment, persuasion can often be used to carry out power and control, moreover it can enforce ideas, avoid responsibility and give rise to common understanding (Pulverness 2003). While analyzing authentic discourse, it is possible to investigate the uses of some pragmatic markers and how they recur in discourse in order to obtain an effective communication. Schiffrin (1987) defines “discourse markers” as “sequentially dependent elements which bracket units of talk”, while Fraser (1996) describes “discourse markers” as a sub-category of “pragmatic markers”, and considers these elements “to be separate and distinct from the propositional content of the sentence, […] the linguistically encoded clues which signal the speaker's potential communicative intentions”. Researchers all seem to agree on the fact that discourse markers do not constitute a separate sintactic category (Schiffrin 1987; Redeker 1991; Fraser 1999; Blakemore 2002; Fraser 2006) and that they are not part of the propositional content of the sentence (Schiffrin 1987; Fraser 1996; Fraser 1999; Blakemore 2002). Observing authentic discourse gives the possibility to identify semantic variations and marked use of the lexicon in different communicative contexts, which are determined by the relationship between interlocutors and the communicative role assigned to them. I will investigate the use of the discourse markers ránhòu 然后 and nà 那, observed in a corpus of radio conversations recorded in Taiwan by native speakers of Mandarin Chinese language on various subjects related to university and social life. I chose these two pragmatic elements, because in previous researches on conversational analysis, it has been stated that the discourse markers ránhòu 然后 and nà 那, among others, are the most frequently produced discourse markers by native Chinese speakers in daily life conversation, during TV programs and radio interviews (Tsai and Chu 2015; Huang 1999; Lin 2000; Tzeng 2001; Tsai 2003; Shen 2009; Xiao 2010). My research questions are the following: are discourse markers ránhòu 然后 and nà 那mainly used for their lexical use or do they recue as pragmatic markers in authentic conversation? Do they have different pragmatic functions from those identified by previous research on discourse markers? Which are the main factors that influence these functions? When used with its lexical use, ránhòu 然后 connects two clauses in a temporal order and in this respect the closest equivalent in English can be then. In the literature about the marker ránhòu 然后 as a pragmatic marker (Lü Shuxiang 1999, Wang and Zhou 2005, Tsai and Chu 2015), it is mainly used to continue a conversational topic; it is used to mark the utterance sequence, or to connect two comparable ideas. On the other hand, nà 那 used with its lexical meaning is mainly used as demonstrative adjective or pronoun, while on the pragmatic field it has many different uses: maintaining the topic in a dialogue; assisting in the development of a topic; signaling a topic-shift; introducing an opposite concept; expressing casual linearity. I will observe both lexical and pragmatic uses of the two linguistic elements ránhòu 然后 and nà 那 in the corpus I have collected and I will show how, according to my analysis, they rarely occur for their lexical meaning (with a difference between ránhòu 然后 and nà 那), while they were abundantly used for their pragmatic uses in discourse. As a discourse marker, ránhòu 然后is mainly used in order to mark conceptual connections between different ideas expressed by an interlocutor, so that it is also used in order to hold the turn in a conversation. As for the discourse marker nà 那, it covers a larg
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteSelected Papers
EditorElisa Maria Giunipero, Chiara Piccinini
Numero di pagine14
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2020


  • Chinese pragmatics
  • discourse markers
  • na
  • pragmatica cinese
  • ranhou
  • segnali discorsivi


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