FOCAL POINT IN CONVERSATION: DISCOURSE-PRAGMATIC FUNCTIONS OF DISTAL DEMONSRATIVE HE IN TAIWANESE SOUTHERN MIN
Miao-Hsia Chang, Huai-Tung Hsu/ National Taiwan Normal University
This study examines the discourse-pragmatic functions of the distal demonstrative HE ‘that’ and its functional equivalents in Taiwanese Southern Min (TSM) conversation. The analysis shows that an overwhelming proportion of HE tokens are used to denote a referent that is assumed by the speaker to be identifiable based on community knowledge, shared background knowledge, inference, or evoked information. Such uses are argued to emerge from the negotiation of the meaning of the referent via the interactional contexts (cf. Tao 1999; Huang 2013). They signify the speaker’s belief toward the hearer regarding the identifiability of the referent in the process of information exchanging and negotiating. The marking of a referent with HE brings the NP at issue to an activated state which then serves as the focal point of interest in the succeeding exchange of talk. Meanwhile, the speaker might convey an emotional tone or viewpoint distancing from the referent. The major uses of HE mark NPs that are otherwise conceptually distant from the interlocutors’ consciousness.
Key words: distal demonstrative, Taiwanese Southern Min, conversation, focal point