An analysis of focus and its role in the answering systems of polar questions in Chinese and English

Mei Ling Teresa Liou*, Chen Sheng Luther Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Instead of classifying natural languages in terms of their answering systems for polar questions, this study investigates how languages construct the answering system for the polar questions with a special concentration on the answering system of the Chinese ma particle question and English polar questions. We argue that the primarily mechanism that natural languages adopt to construct an answering system is the focus mechanism which is based on the relationship between a focus sensitive marker and its association of focus. The different answering patterns to polar questions result from different scopes of focus. In a polar question, what is being focused by the focus sensitive marker or focus operator falls into question scope (focus association). The respondent answers the polar question based on the proposition in the question scope. Answering with a positive particle expresses agreement with that question proposition while answering with a negative particle conveys that the question proposition is not true.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-70
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Chinese Linguistics
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 30 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • Answering particles
  • Focus
  • Ma particles
  • Negative polar questions
  • Syntax

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