Sentence-Final Particle and Illocutionary Acts in Mandarin Learners: A Corpus-based Study of Ma
Ma(?) is an underexploited but frequently-used particle in Mandarin Chinese. Due to its frequency in daily talk and online chatting, it is important for Chinese learners to correctly understand the pragmatic function and illocutionary meaning of ma. In this study, under the framework of speech act theory, we analyzed the illocutionary acts of sentence-final particle ma by Chinese learners based on corpus data extracted from Guangwai-Lancaster Chinese Learner Corpus. Fisher’s exact tests were conducted to explore the relationship between metadata and illocutionary acts, with results showing that all differences did not have statistical significance. We first concluded that ma was an informal particle learned at the intermediate level and mastered at the advanced level. Gender differences in using ma were also discussed, and based on this discussion, it was indicated that the function of ma resembled gender identity to some extent. Then we claimed that the representative act was the general and basic act of ma, followed by the directive and that ma was highly unlikely to appear with declarations. Finally, we discussed its implications for language teaching.
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