Mismatches in the interpretation of fragment negative expressions in Mandarin Chinese

Feifei Li, Joan Borràs-Comes, M.Teresa Espinal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019 Elsevier B.V. The aim of this paper is to investigate experimentally the mismatches in the interpretation of Mandarin Chinese (MC) argumental negative expressions (namely, méi(yǒu)rén ‘no one’ and méi(yǒu)shénme ‘nothing’) when they are used as fragment answers to negative wh-questions. The acoustic correlates that characterize these fragment answers are identified when they convey not only double negation (DN) but also SN meanings. An analysis of the results of a production experiment supports the conclusion that DN is prosodically marked in MC, and that in this language DN and SN readings display significantly different acoustic correlates in speech production. More specifically, DN readings show shorter duration, more pitch variation, higher maximum pitch, and larger rising pitch excursion. The results of an audio perception experiment further show that native speakers of MC perceive these prosodic correlates and reliably use them to distinguish between DN and SN readings of argumental negative expressions used as fragment answers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-45
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Denial
  • Double negation
  • Fragment negative expressions
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Prosody
  • Single negation


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