Analysis of the Main Pragmatic Functions of the Particle Ne 呢 Observed in Interactions between Teachers and Italian Learners of Chinese as a Foreign Language in Instructional Contexts
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This contribution is a qualitative analysis of the modal particle ne 呢 used as a “discourse marker” (following the definition by Schiffrin 1987) in the Chinese language.
The particle ne can cover different pragmatic functions. Among the functions already demonstrated by previous studies are those of topic shift and the contrast effect (Shei 2014, Feng 2019), while its use in interrogative sentences can introduce doubt or uncertainty (Lee-Wong 2001). Liu (2011: 399) identifies the additional function of focusing the interlocutor’s attention on new, contrasting information when ne occurs after a topic in declarative sentences. The variety of contexts in which ne can occur makes it difficult to give a precise definition of its uses, because it is one of the most recurring particles in discourse (Li, Thompson 1981, Lee-Wong 2001).
This contribution uses conversation analysis to examine interactions recorded during Chinese language lessons between Chinese teachers and Italian students studying Chinese as a foreign language. Observations were carried out on a corpus of 10 hours recorded during on-site university courses at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan. This analysis demonstrates how teachers use the marker ne pragmatically to enhance dialogue and their interaction with students, with the purpose of eliciting students’ answers and maintaining their attention. I will discuss the main pragmatic functions of ne found in these interactions and their specific uses in an instructional context.