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The Meanings and Functions of Weak-Modal Constructions in a British Spoken Corpus
|Issue Date:||2021-09-02 15:25:49 (UTC+8)|
|Abstract:||本文探討The Spoken BNC2014口語語料庫中弱情態動詞構式的語意及功能，我們採取構式語法的角度來分析can, could, may, might構式主要成員的結構及語意。傳統中對情態動詞的語意分析習慣沿用特定的類別稱呼像是epistemic或是deontic，這些類別常被認為太抽象或太籠統，無法反映出情態詞彙真實的使用狀況。再者，這些類別的意思界線模糊，採用這些類別來區隔弱情態動詞can, could, may, might很困難也很不實際。本研究採用構式語法的角度來看待這個議題，我們研究的對象是情態動詞構式，每個情態動詞構式被當成是形意合一的單位，這個單位具備個別的語音、語法並搭配自有的語意、話語及語用的特徵。 |
我們採取使用基礎模型(usage-based model)的觀點，將弱情態動詞構式的表現及組成視為是語言使用的結果，我們透過觀察弱情態動詞及其重要搭配詞的關係來了解弱情態動詞構式的組成及網路。我們的搭配詞分析顯示can, could, may, might不但各自擁有許多種類的搭配詞，他們也共享許多相同的搭配詞。然而，Log Ratio統計也顯示這些弱情態動詞構式對不同搭配詞有各自的偏好，這包括對於緊接著弱情態動詞之後的謂詞的偏好以及銜接弱情態動詞的主詞選擇。結果顯示弱情態動詞構式與詞彙是互依的關係而非任意的搭配。
我們選擇八個重要的弱情態動詞構式來進行後續的質性會話分析(conversation analysis)。我們針對語境內容像是模糊限制語(hedge)，語用標記(discourse marker)，連接詞，參與會話的人數以及話題接續性來了解弱情態動詞構式的語意及功能。結果顯示這八個弱情態動詞構式具備多樣及獨特的語意，包括主要的出現頻率較高的語意以及較邊陲出現頻率較低的語意。我們發現[we can do this]最常出現於艱困的情境，用來提振對話者的士氣，[we can do it]表達說話者對於完成任務的信心，[we could have had+*]描述回憶中的或想像中的未發生的事件，[we could have done+*]敘述對話者或大眾所認知的但未發生的理想事件，[there might be some+*]引導對話者去注意某物體或事件，[there might be something+*]幫助對話者指認某物體的位置或澄清某想法，[he/she may have PP+*]提出對於特定人物狀況的預測或八卦的假設，[they may have PP+*]則是依據背景知識提供對於熟人近況的了解及推測。
This study investigates the meanings and functions of weak-modal constructions in the Spoken British National Corpus 2014 (The Spoken BNC2014). A constructionist perspective is taken to examine the organization and meanings of central can, could, may and might constructions. In the traditional approach, modal semantics was interpreted in terms of a set of prescribed notions such as epistemic or deontic sense, which were often criticized as too abstract or too coarse to capture the meanings of modal expressions in real use. Moreover, because the boundary between these notions often becomes blurred, it is impractical and difficult to use them for the distinction of a group of modals that all express weak modality: can, could, may, and might. By taking a constructionist approach, we identified modal constructions as form-function pairings. Each modal construction is represented by its phonology or morphosyntax and is equipped with its own semantic and discourse-pragmatic characteristics.
By subscribing to the usage-based model of language, which sees constructions as the result of language use, we identified weak-modal constructions and their networks by examining the associative relations between weak modals and their important collocates. Our collocational analysis showed that can, could, might, and may were associated with a variety of collocates and they shared many common collocates. Nevertheless, Log Ratio statistics suggested that weak-modal constructions were also distinct in terms of their preferred types of items that may fill the slots of the constructions, which included not just elements or predicates on the modal’s right but also the grammatical subject that was linked to the construction. The findings showed that modal constructions and lexical items are mutually selected and that the makeup of modal constructions is not in free variation.
Eight central weak-modal constructions were selected and subject to the qualitative conversation analysis, which enabled us to interpret weak-modal constructions in terms of discoursal characteristics such as hedges, discourse markers, and clausal connectives, or interactional features like the number of interlocutors or topic continuity. We found that these constructions displayed unique and dynamic meanings ranging from core and more frequent ones to peripheral and rare meanings. The result showed that [we can do this] is often used in time of uncertainty to boost morale, and [we can do it] is used to set an upbeat mood for the completion of tasks. Meanwhile, [we could have had+*] describes unreal events that could only be afforded by circumstantial factors in retrospect or by imagination while [we could have done+*] depicts a past unrealized cause or idea presumably shared by most members in the conversation or the public. On the other hand, [there might be some+*] directs the interlocutor’s attention to the expectation of certain objects or affairs, and [there might be something+*] orients the interlocutor’s attention to the location or identification of an unspecified object or intention. Finally, [he/she may have PP+*] conveys a range of possibility senses from prediction to gossip, and [they may have PP+*] supplies information regarding the condition of acquaintances or certain groups of people.
The results confirmed the usefulness of the constructionist perspective on modality, which has provided more detailed information for a more precise and accurate description of weak-modal constructions. Moreover, it captures the dynamic relationship among related weak-modal constructions. The combination of a corpus-based approach and a qualitative conversation analysis bears important implications for lexicography and language pedagogy, which rely heavily on attested data to present a more complete picture of our language.
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