Modal and discourse properties of utterance-final particles in Mandarin
Utterance-final particles (UFPs) are function words that are frequently used in everyday conversation. Unfortunately, as a category, they are difficult to characterise due to their notoriously ambiguous nature and lack of referential meaning. It appears that existing approaches are insufficient to pin down a core meaning and to distinguish the effect of the particle being either present or absent. Their claimed meanings are in general either too broad to explain the restrictions on their use or too specific and inviting a wide range of counterexamples. Therefore, further research is required to examine how UFPs are processed to arrive at the communicative goals of interlocutors. To fill this gap, the current study aims to investigate the communicative functions of UFPs ā, ǎ, bā and bǎ in Mandarin from a semantic and pragmatic perspective. In particular, I explicate how the speaker's intention towards the target proposition is presented, by looking at the modal and discourse properties of these particles on the basis of crosslinguistic evidence. Having examined these particles in a wide range of contexts, I suggest that the speaker communicates with the listener to achieve particular goals through the management of common ground when the particles in question are present as compared to when they are not. The source of knowledge from which the speaker receives the information plays an important role in the use of these particles in the broader discourse context. Furthermore, UFPs serve to signal certain discourse effects between discourse segments, which shows how the speaker manipulates utterances with particles attached in order to interact with the listener. Besides, an experiment takes place to test whether participants are satisfied with the senses identified by prior studies for the particle ā.