Linguistics Talk: Prosody & Epistemic Modality

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Language conveys how things are from our perspective; we seldom express naked propositions without coding our attitude to them. Epistemic modality, which is usually understood as the degree of commitment by the speaker to what he says, thus serves the need to code speakers’ subjective attitudes. Epistemic modality is commonly believed to be expressed by epistemic phrases, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, and lexical verbs. This presentation argues that prosody is also an important resource for expressing the speaker’s finely calibrated expressions of epistemic stance. Taking wo juede ‘I think’, a multifunctional phrase in Mandarin, as an example to illustrate that different functions are manifested differently in prosody.

Wei Wang is a GLACT Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her PhD in East Asian Linguistics from UCLA in 2017. Her research area includes discourse pragmatics, Mandarin discourse grammar, conversation analysis, and language pedagogy. Her recent project is on prosody-in-conversation, focusing on the prosody and functions of discourse markers in natural Mandarin conversation.


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    T. Jesse Brannen
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