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A Discourse and Pragmatic Analysis of the “Lian” Structure and Its Pedagogical Applications
FRED J. CHEN
The present thesis has adopted the theoretical framework of Halliday’s metafunctions which encompasses ideational, textual, and interpersonal functions (Halliday 1985, 1994, 2004). Within this framework, the discourse and pragmatic aspects of the Lian structure and their interrelatedness are explored. Additionally, the results of this study are applied for pedagogical purposes. This study is substantiated by empirical data, composed of 601 written data from Taiwan. It maintains that the functor Lian in the Lian structure is a focus marker at the discourse level, rather than a preposition at the syntactic level. In discourse, the Lian structure presents a contrastive function, but the second (implicit) item to be contrasted is often omitted in the context that follows due to the fact that Chinese tends to be terse in its expressions. Additionally, the researcher has further explored the interactions between the explicit and implicit contrastive items and the grounding theories, and has discovered that “the initial implicit-background sentence” has a higher proportion because it functions to provide helpful background information that paves the way for the incoming Lian structure, which is the focus to be presented in the sentence. Moreover, it is found in this study that between the two types of sentences that follow the Lian structure, namely “the following implicit sentence” and “the following explicit-foreground sentence”, the former has a higher proportion due to the same economical principle of terseness in Chinese. Next, in terms of whether the topic is continued in discourse that follows the Lian structure, it is found in this study that topic discontinuity has a higher frequency of occurrence. An additional analysis further reveals that these topic discontinued sentences are largely focussentences, focus being the most important message in communication, and suggests that the Lian structure is communicatively oriented. Moreover, it is found that the Chinese “zero anaphor” in the Lian structure exhibits the highest frequency of occurrence, more than any other Chinese referential expressions, in order to tighten the continuity of the topic. Finally, in terms of coherence at the discourse level, the Lian structure is most frequently used to elaborate on additional details of the previous point, and thus displays an incremental relationship. At the pragmatic level, this study suggests that “Lian” and “Ye/Dou” in the Lian structure serves as relevant procedural encoders that help the reader/listener to focus on and infer the right direction of the communicative flow. The functor Lian encodes an extreme value in a given category, whereas and the marker Ye/Dou encodes a counter-expected situation. Thus, as mentioned above, the Lian structure is communicatively oriented, and the focus is placed on being maximally informative (i.e. clarity) for the listener and minimally redundant (i.e. terseness) for the speaker (Grice 1975, Sperber and Wilson 1986, 1995). In addition, the Lian structure frequently appears to co-occur with negative words that carry deontic modality, such as reminding, warning, regulating, and prohibiting. At the pedagogical level, based on the multi-level linguistic analysis in this study, eight L2 Chinese textbooks that are commonly used in Taiwan and the U.S. are reviewed. It is followed by a teaching material of the Lian structure, and a simple lesson plan is further devised for the low-Intermediate native English-speaking learners of Chinese.
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