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Ying Yang – “Grammar, Interaction, and Social Context: The Evolution Story of 那na ‘that’”

February 8 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm  |  Humanities 1, Room 202


The Department of Languages and Applied Linguistics is pleased to present:

“Grammar, Interaction, and Social Context:
The Evolution Story of 那na ‘that’”

with Ying Yang, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin – Madison


Face-to-face conversation is the primordial form of human interaction and language is inherently a form of social behavior. However, spontaneous natural conversation remains one of the least explored discourse domains in linguistics. Using corpora compiled from transcriptions of spontaneous conversations, Yang’s research program investigates how language structures and grammatical patterns can be seen as emergent from interactional exigencies of ordinary conversation.

This particular talk focuses on the grammar of 那na in Mandarin Chinese conversation. Based on a 416,000-character conversational database, Yang examines how a demonstrative can shift from marking spatial deixis to signaling speaker stance.

This talk proposes a new perspective on demonstratives on a novel investigation focusing on their non-referential usages. Ying Yang shows that non-referential na is routinely used by speakers to express contrastive meaning, encode attitudinal stances that are often disaffiliative, taking the form of disagreements, challenges, or criticisms. The analysis also illustrates that the non-referential usages of na, though highly grammaticalized, are linked to the deictic meanings of the demonstrative. In doing so, this talk elucidates how looking at language in everyday conversation affects our understanding of the intricacies of grammar.


Join us for this special research talk on Thursday, February 8th at 5:00pm!


February 8
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm