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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Emphatic Shi and Predictive-Assertive Hui in Mandarin Chinese

Vol. 31 No. 3   9/2001  


EmphaticShi and Predictive-Assertive Huiin Mandarin Chinese


Chia-ling Hsieh









Key words

Modility, focus, topic raising


    This paper investigates the similarities and differences between emphatic shi and predictive-assertive hui in mandarin Chinese, as the following examples illustrate.

    (1) Ta shi zai Taipei mai na ben shu de. He shi in Taipei buy that CL book Particle “he did buy that book in Taipei.”

    (2) Ta hui zai Taipei mai na ben shu de He hui in Taipei buy that CL book particle “He will buy that book in Taipei.”

    These two words have been acknowledged to exhibit c orrespondence in their function, but they have not been systematically examined in terms of their functions, but they have not been systematically examined in terms of their individual and shared features. This paper aims to thoroughly describe and explain their function with regard to semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic dimensions. Our conclusion can be summarized as follows. Semantically, both emphatic shi and Predictive-Assertive hui involve epistemic modality. While shi

express the speaker’s assertion on the truth of a proposition, hui conveys the speaker’s predictive assertion on the future possibility of a proposition. Syntactically, emphatic shi acts as an epistemic modal verb (e.g.ke-neng“be possible”), subcategorizing a sentence and allowing the topic to be raised to the front of the predicate. In contrast, hui displays a greater variety of syntactic behaviors, its distribution overlapping with that of a denotic modal verb (e.g.ying-gai should) , whereas its categorical selection resembling that of a dynamic modal verb (e.g.

neng “be able to”). Pragmatically, emphatic shi carries a focal feature that marks the speaker’s emphasis, so it must get well along with the other focus devices. Conversely, assertive hui lacks such a feature, thus able to coexist freely with focal constructions. Finally, we suggest that the synchronic variations of shi and hui can be accounted for from a diachronic perspective, with a view to better capturing the grammatical characteristics of shi and hui in Mandarin Chinese.



Author: Chia-ling Hsieh
Genre: Article
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