On the interpretation of response particles méi (yǒu) and bù to negative polar questions in Mandarin Chinese

Feifei Li, Joan Borràs-Comes, M Teresa Espinal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The interpretation of isolated response particles (méi(yǒu)/bù) in Mandarin Chinese, when used as fragment answers to negative polar questions, has traditionally been considered as conveying Double Negation. The present study shows that these response particles may express a Single Negation meaning in addition to a Rejection interpretation when specific contextual settings are considered. It is also shown that both Single Negation and Rejection readings are associated with specific prosodic and gestural cues at the time of production. In perception, gestural properties of silent videos are preferably interpreted as conveying Single Negation. In production and interpretation this study supports the conclusion that a Rejection meaning for méiyǒu/bù corresponds to a marked reading, and that Single Negation is produced and interpreted more readily and faster than Rejection. Native speakers of Mandarin Chinese rely on multimodal mechanisms (prosodic and gestural strategies) at the time of expressing both Single Negation and Rejection meanings by means of isolated response particles. We discuss the implications of this study beyond Mandarin Chinese.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-281
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Volume200
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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