Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 623–657 | Cite as

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

OriginalPaper

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

Aspect Change of state Contrary to expectation Common ground Presupposition Mandarin Chinese Sentence-final -le 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in LinguisticsUniversity of MinnesotaTwin CitiesUSA

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