On the semantics of restrictive sentence-final particles zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’ in Cantonese : a comparison with Mandarin restrictive adverbs

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)31A_Invited conference paper (refereed items)Yespeer-review

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Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2018

Conference

TitleThe 12th Workshop on Formal Syntax & Semantics (第十二屆形式句法學暨形式語意學研討會)
LocationNational Sun Yat-sen University
PlaceTaiwan
CityKaohsiung
Period27 - 28 April 2018

Abstract

Cantonese has two restrictive sentence-final particles (SFPs), namely zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’, which have drawn the most theoretical attention, as they are considered to have a meaning closest to English “only” (cf. Kwok 1984, S. P. Law 1990, Matthews & Yip 1994, Luke & Nancarrow 1997, Fung 2000, Leung 1992/2005, A. Law 2004, Li 2006, Sybesma & Li 2007, Wakefield 2010). What is complicated and unique about zaa3 and ze1 is that on top of the core semantics ‘restriction’, each of them conveys distinct presuppositional meanings. (1) Johnhai6jin6gau3zo6lei5 zaa3. (cf. A. Law 2004)Johnberesearchassistant ZAA‘John is only a research assistant.’(2) Gwai3 hai6 gwai3-zo2 di1, bat1gwo3 dou1 hai6 jat1baak3 man1 ze1. expensive is expensive-Asp a-bit but all be one-hundred buck ZE (adapted from Fung 2000)“(True,) it’s a bit expensive. Even so, it’s just one hundred dollars only.”Both zaa3 in (1) and ze1 in (2) express a meaning of “only or “just” (cf. Sybesma & Li 2007). Yet, two debatable issues arise here. The use of zaa3 will trigger a “negative” meaning of “insufficiency” it triggered (cf. Kwok 1984), which is in some cases considered to be attributed to its assumption of a higher value on the evaluation scale (cf. Fung 2000). For ze1 in (2), the focus value “one hundred dollars” is a price which is still higher than a standard of expensiveness but is already lower than presupposed, therefore generating the persupposition that the price is not too excessive. Based on sentences like (2), it is well-acknowledged that one distinct sense of ze1 is “downplaying” (cf. Kwok 1984, Matthews & Yip 1994, Chan 1996, Fung 2000, Leung 1992/2005, Sybesma & Li 2007, Wakefield 2010, among others), but the semantics of “downplaying” is yet to be defined. On the basis of the “insufficiency” and “downplaying” meanings described in (1) and (2), it is stated in previous analyses that zaa3 and ze1 are not interchangeable (cf. Fung 2000). Based on what has been described in previous analyses, this paper further examines the semantics of zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’. In line with Li (2014), we argue that three basic semantic components constitute the core semantics of the restrictive sentence-final particles zaa3 and ze1: (i) the denotation of the corresponding sentence without the particle; (ii) the negated existential quantification functioning as exclusion; and (iii) scalar presupposition. Although the two restrictive SFPs to a certain extent share (i) and (ii), they are distinct in (iii), namely their scalar interpretation. While zaa3 is understood to be a neutral statement of restrictiveness, which is compatible with both scalar and non-scalar contexts, ze1 can only occur in scalar contexts, with the two presupposed values relying on speaker stances. In order to account for the lower ranking value or “downplaying” presupposed by the addressee, it is assumed that the addressee stands in the belief relation to two separate sentence contents, namely , the sentence without ze1 and presupposed to be true, and , which is presupposed by the addressee and takes a lower value on the scale than that of . This gives the addressee’s stance presupposition that the statement “ encodes something ‘excessive’ or ‘too much’” is true. It is such a stance presupposition which is additional to ze1 and makes it different from zaa3. On the other hand, under the relativist semantics proposed by Lasersohn (2009), it is possible for the speaker to hold a contradictory sentence and gives a stance presupposition that the statement “ encodes something ‘excessive’ or ‘too much’” is false. The above contrast is particularly obvious in cases where only ze1 not zaa3 can occur, showing the essential existence of such a stance presupposition under such a case. Along the above line of argumentation, a comparison will be made with Mandarin restrictive adverbs. Lai (1995, 1999) argues that cai ‘only’ and jiu ‘only’ are scalar particles. Both presuppose “a change of state of the truth value of a proposition”: while cai indicates that the asserted value is located ‘farther up’ than expected on the relevant scale, jiu signals that the asserted value is located ‘farther down’ than expected. Both cai and jiu involve an expected or a presupposed value, which is used to contrast with the asserted or focus value. Such a contrast can be accounted for in terms of a neutral statement of restriction, as suggested by zaa3. Yet neither cai nor jiu involves two presupposed values as in the case of ze1, and whether this can simply be attributed to ze1 being a SFP and cai/jiu as an adverb will be an issue to be further examined.

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Citation Format(s)

On the semantics of restrictive sentence-final particles zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’ in Cantonese : a comparison with Mandarin restrictive adverbs. / LEE, Po Lun Peppina.

2018. The 12th Workshop on Formal Syntax & Semantics (第十二屆形式句法學暨形式語意學研討會) , Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)31A_Invited conference paper (refereed items)Yespeer-review