On the semantics of restrictive SFP zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’ in Cantonese

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)32_Refereed conference paper (no ISBN/ISSN)peer-review

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Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

Conference

Title27th Annual Conference of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics (IACL-27)
LocationKobe City University of Foreign Studies
PlaceJapan
CityKobe City
Period10 - 12 May 2019

Abstract

Cantonese has two restrictive sentence-final particles (SFPs), namely zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’, which are considered to have a meaning closest to English “only” (see e.g. 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) John hai6 jin6gau3 zo6lei5 zaa3. (cited from A. Law 2004) John be research assistant ZAA ‘John is only a research assistant.’ (2) Gwai3 hai6 gwai3-zo2 di1, bat1gwo3 dou1 hai6 jat1baak3 man1 ze1. (cited from Fung 2000) expensive is expensive-Asp a-bit but all be one-hundred buck ZE “(True,) it’s a bit expensive. Even so, it’s just one hundred dollars only.” The zaa3-sentence in (1) is understood as a neutral statement in the sense that John is only a research assistant but not of any rank higher than that (see Sybesma & Li 2007). Yet, two debatable issues arise from the sentence. The use of zaa3 will trigger a “negative” meaning of “insufficiency” it triggered (see Kwok 1984), which is in some cases considered to be attributed to its assumption of a higher value on the evaluation scale (see 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 implication that the price is not too excessive and still acceptable. Therefore, one distinct sense of ze1 is “downplaying”, which assumes a lower value on the relevant scale.This paper examines the semantics of zaa3 and ze1. I will argue that although they share the core semantics of “restriction” (see e.g. Fung 2000, Wakefield 2010 and Li Y. N. 2014), zaa3 and ze1 cannot be the same semantically. They are distinctive in terms of scalar presuppositions and dependence on speaker/addressee stance, which is critical for scalar restrictive SFPs. Cantonese zaa3 ‘only’ is considered to express a neutral statement of restrictiveness, which is compatible with both scalar and non-scalar contexts. Ze1 ‘only’ can only occur in scalar contexts, with the two presupposed values relying on speaker/addressee stances. To derive the semantics of ze1, Lasersohn (2009, 2017)’s relativist semantics would be taken into account, which assumes that denotations are assigned to expressions relative to contexts, worlds, and individuals. In order to account for the lower ranking value presupposed by the addressee, it is assumed that the sentence without ze1 ‘only’, namely p, is presupposed to be true, and it stands in the belief relation to two separate sentence contents β and δ. β is presupposed by the addressee and takes a lower value on the scale than that of p. With the relation of Sβ <Sp between β and p, the addressee holds a stance presupposition that [|Excessive(p)|] is true, giving the so-called “excessive” or “too much” reading claimed in previous analyses. On the other hand, the speaker holds a stance presupposition of Sp <Sδ, which holds a stance presupposition that [|Excessive(p)|] is false.With two different stance presuppositions, it is possible for the speaker and the addressee to hold a contradictory value regarding “the asserted value is excessive”, deriving the “downplaying” effect.

Citation Format(s)

On the semantics of restrictive SFP zaa3 ‘only’ and ze1 ‘only’ in Cantonese. / LEE, Peppina Po-un.

2019. Paper presented at 27th Annual Conference of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics (IACL-27), Kobe City, Japan.

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)32_Refereed conference paper (no ISBN/ISSN)peer-review