Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 623–657

Speaker presupposition and Mandarin Chinese sentence-final -le: a unified analysis of the “change of state” and the “contrary to expectation” reading

Authors

    • Program in LinguisticsUniversity of Minnesota
OriginalPaper

DOI: 10.1007/s11049-009-9074-4

Cite this article as:
Soh, H.L. Nat Lang Linguist Theory (2009) 27: 623. doi:10.1007/s11049-009-9074-4
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Abstract

This paper addresses the connection between the “change of state” and the “contrary to expectation” interpretations through a study of Mandarin sentence-final particle -le (sentential -le), which along with English already and German schon are associated with these two interpretations. Making use of the notion of speaker presupposition and common ground (Stalnaker 1998, 1999, 2002), I propose an analysis of sentential -le whereby the “change of state” interpretation is associated with a change expressed by propositions within a common ground, while the “contrary to expectation” interpretation is associated with a change expressed by propositions across common grounds. Contrary to what is sometimes assumed, both the “change of state” and the “contrary to expectation” interpretations involve changes across a temporal domain. The proposal is supported by a restriction in the occurrence of sentential -le with downward-entailing quantifiers. The analysis supports Löbner’s (1989) insight that already/schon is associated with a presupposition about a prior “negative state”, and clarifies how the “change of state” associated with sentential -le is different from the one entailed by the occurrence of a telic situation.

Keywords

AspectChange of stateContrary to expectationCommon groundPresuppositionMandarin ChineseSentence-final -le

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009