Taiwan Journal of Linguistics

A Diamond Open Access Journal (free to authors and readers)
ISSN: 1729-4649 (print); 1994-2559 (online)


Huang, Shuanfan and Huang, Huei-ju
In this paper we investigate, on the basis of corpus data, how Tsou marks ‘realis’and ‘irrealis’ events in a number of syntactic environments. In environments commonly believed to attract ‘irrealis’ markers we show that ‘irrealis’ auxiliary verbs are sharply limited to just one functional domain, namely future potential events. But use of irrealis markers in Tsou to mark future potential events is largely predictable on universal grounds. We therefore argue that although irrealis auxiliary verbs in Tsou can be used to indicate potential and unactualized events, this is best seen as a consequence of their function as tense-aspect markers rather than as a reflex of their function as reality markers and that it would be wrong to continue to assume that the auxiliary verb system in Tsou (and perhaps in all of the other Formosan languages) is a system for marking reality. Given these findings, we propose to reconceptualize the auxiliary verbs in Tsou as follows: the auxiliary verbs in Tsou encode temporal and aspectual information, but not reality information. Where they appear to mark irrealis potential events, the appearance is deceptive and is simply a manifestation of their functions as tense-aspect markers to code futurity. What has been claimed to mark irrealis in Tsou on closer investigation can be shown to be either a consequence of the functions of tense-aspect markers in Tsou, or of the functions of the construction as a whole in supplying the ‘irrealis’ interpretation.


黃宣範 黃惠如 / 國立台灣大學