Harmony and Tension in Mandarin Chinese Prosody: Constraints and Opportunities of Lexical Tones in Discourse Markers

Li-chiung Yang, Tunghai University

Prosody in tonal languages such as Mandarin provides a fascinating test on the universal character and attributes of prosody in natural language. Prosodic variation is a key element in marking intention, cognitive states, and topic development, and answers to how these communicative goals are accomplished in Mandarin provide enlightening discoveries on the universality of prosodic forces and shapes. This paper analyzes prosody and tonal interaction in the use of two most frequently occurring discourse markers in Chinese, ranhou, jiushi, each of which plays a critically important role in signaling relationships among topic elements and the mental and interactional states of participants during conversations. Thecurrent study investigates how the lexical tones and usage of these markers interact with prosody to bring about the desired communicative goal in spontaneous natural conversation.