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Free Essay Sample «Relevance Theory»

«Relevance Theory»

Relevance theory is a fairly popular alternative approach to value speakers and their principles of cooperation. The authors of this theory are French scientists Deirdre Wilson and Dan Sperber. This concept is constantly improving, adding more and more new facts.

This theory has got several major sources (Sperber D. and Wilson D., 1986).

First of all, the first source is Grice’s theory about human communication including verbal and non-verbal (both verbal and non-verbal), with the help of which it is possible to express intentions (Allott N., 2011).

Secondly, Jerry Fodor's book «The modularity of mind» (1983), made a great breakthrough in encoding and decoding of operating information and in the architecture of the mind.

Grice introduced pragmatic model. D. Sperber and D. Wilson based on the fact that the transfer of information is usually provided by two models - a code and differentiation. According to the code model, speaker encodes his ideas for the transmission of messages through the signal, and the listener decodes using identification strategy. According to the communication model speakers provides both linguistic and nonlinguistic means of emotional expressions which we are going to discuss in this work.

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The context with the help of which language utterances are chosen are studied by Situation Theory. This theory studies what situation can change language constructions. Interpretation Theory shows that decoding can be different because of different interpretation. All these theories are very useful to analyze such phenomenon as modality. More than that, theory of contexts will be quite important because Taiwanese Mandarin Speakers have one of the most important context which is called culture. This main context will influences encoding and decoding. Verbal comprehension involves partially decoded message by a listener. However, the linguistic meaning, found during encoding, is just part of the process used to formulate lexical flows. The main question is if Taiwanese Speakers decode and encode their thoughts and emotions as Europeans or as Chinese. These thoughts and emotions are referred further as modality.

Modality is considered as semantic category that expresses the speaker's attitude to the content of his statements, goals of speech, expression ratio of the content of reality. Modality is one of the main categories of natural language. The concept of modality comes from classical formal logic borrowed from ancient times and philosophers. The main meaning of modality is from the point of view of reality or unreality.Modality invalidity means that the content expressed in terms of the speaker's face, corresponds to objective reality: the subject is perceived as real and true fact or questionable, etc. Modality of invalidity is divided into such semantic types as obligation, modality of possibility and impossibility, tentative modality, motive (imperative) modality, intentional modality, desirable modality. Personalization is the effect which is characterizing the subject of the situation, which may be the speaker (1st person), the addressee (2nd person) and is not involved in the communication act (third person). All these modal aspects must be taken into account while analyzing Taiwanese Mandarin Modal particles.

Analyzing the work “Relevance and the discourse functions of Mandarin utterance-final modality particles” written by Chu, C. (2009) it is possible to say such particles as a/ya (), ba (), ne () and, are generally treated as ‘modality’ particles. All of these particles express personal feelings such as ‘obviousness’, ‘uncertainty’, ‘intensive inquiry’.

In Mandarin Chinese modal utterances a/ya () mean almost the same and stress out importance of information towards listeners. In Taiwanese Mandarin a/ya () have a bit different meanings. Modal particle ‘a’ means ‘I am not sure’. In some situation it can serve as a means to prolong time for thinking. In such situation it can change intonation pattern. Among the same age speakers it can sound as a desire to continue conversation, but in the conversation of dependent people it can be like an excuse. In difficult and unpleasant topics ‘a’ gives time to think. Modal word ‘ya’ means ‘happy’. Among different genders it means some kind of flirting. Among teenagers it serves as an expression of different positive reactions. It is also used as encouragement while photographing. While answering Taiwanese speakers usually use ‘ya’ if they want to demonstrate their readiness to perform the action or when they are happy with the result.

Modal particle ‘ba’ in Chinese Mandarin refers listeners to the information that was said before and shows uncertainty, skepticism and sometimes threat if it is pronounced among young people but in Taiwanese Mandarin it shows certainty and some kind of positioning. During team negotiations it can show disrespect, threat, readiness to fight for your idea. Modal particle ‘ne’ has almost the same meaning in Chinese and Taiwanese Mandarin and means that speakers want to refer listeners to previous information and ready to continue conversation. It can substitute a question word which means revision, paraphrasing, in friendly situation it shows surprise but in hostile it shows threat and suspiciousness.

To sum up, it is necessary to say that European modals are more concrete than Chinese and Taiwanese modal particles. More than that, they are produced by with the help of two first letter of common word in the language. This means that they can be pronounced by all speakers but in completely different situations.

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Researched below modal particles show that in different contexts they can get opposite meanings. Context relevance, especially in which modal utterances can be used, plays a great role in different situation and can completely change the meaning.


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