Experimental Linguistics Talks


30 October 2023
11:00 - 12:00
Janskerkhof 13, room 006

Hannah Seemann: Modal Particles and their Interaction with Discourse

Hannah Seemann: Modal Particles and their Interaction with Discourse


Different languages offer a variety of features for a speaker to convey epistemic stance. In German, modal particles have these discourse-managing functions: e.g., ‘ja’ can indicate shared knowledge, ‘doch’ signals a contrast between epistemic states and material on the table and ‘wohl’ is used to mark speaker uncertainty.

Döring (2016) presents a corpus study on modal particles in Rhetorical Structure Theory-style discourse relations, showing that certain modal particles appear more or less frequently than expected in some discourse relations. Following up on this, we present an acceptability study (n = 91) providing experimental evidence that this is not a matter of random co-occurence, but readers having intuitions about which modal particle can be used felicitously in a given discourse context.

Since there seems to be an interaction between modal particles and discourse structure, a connective-insertion task (n = 93) was carried out to test whether the modal particle ‘ja’ is a discourse signal that disambiguates ambiguous discourse contexts. Results show that the particle does support disambiguation of contexts, indicating that these stance markers work as discourse signals.

Döring, S. (2016). Modal Particles, Discourse Structure and Common Ground Management. [Dissertation]. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.



Meeting ID: 382 974 998 605
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