MEANING IN REPAIR: THE ABSTRACT NOUN YISI ‘MEANING/INTENTION’ IN THE MANAGEMENT OF INTERSUBJECTIVITY IN MANDARIN CONVERSATION
Chen-Yu Chester Hsieh
Despite the number of publications concerning the use of abstract nouns in English, this topic is rarely addressed in the literature on languages like Chinese. By examining the abstract noun yisi ‘meaning/intention’ in Mandarin conversation, the present study is intended to contribute to this line of research. Drawing on data from two corpora of spoken Taiwan Mandarin and taking an Interactional Linguistics approach, this article aims to show that yisi tends to occur in particular lexico-grammatical patterns and that the function of most of these yisi-based constructions lies in organizing repair and intersubjectivity in conversation. It is also argued that the use of yisi in spoken Mandarin is shaped by the interplay between the syntactic features, semantic properties, and pragmatic implications of both the noun and the associated constructions. The findings thus not only shed light on the research of repair and abstract nouns, but also advance our understanding of the mutual influence between language structure and social interaction.