Promising and Commitment to Future Actions in Mandarin Conversation
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Promising and Commitment to Future Actions in Mandarin Conversation


Applying an interdisciplinary approach informed by conversation analysis, interactional linguistics, and multimodal analysis of social interaction, this study investigates the verbal and non-verbal resources and sequence organization of promising and relevant commissive actions. Chapter 1 reviews previous studies and establishes the triangle model of directive-commissive actions, which illuminates the relationships among the agent, the beneficiary, and the requested or promised future action. Chapter 2 introduces data and methods, highlights the dimension of commitment in various action types, and distinguishes promising from other commissive actions. Chapter 3 examines common lexico-syntactic resources used in commissive actions in Mandarin conversation, which includes a general survey of the registral differences and analyses of example illocutionary force indicating devices (IFIDs) and illocutionary force modifying devices (IFMDs). Chapter 4 investigates the sequential organization of promising and discovers the preference for first-position promises when the speaker has an unfulfilled pre-existing obligation. This preference is found to be followed by participants in both ordinary conversation and government official-journalist interaction. Chapter 5 reveals that Mandarin speakers follow the principle of proportionality in making commitments to future actions: big promises are made to fulfill future obligations with severe consequences, and small commitments are made to future actions without severe consequences. Chapter 5 also outlines multimodal interactional resources and their co-constructing relationships in performing commissive actions. This dissertation not only answers the questions of when and how Mandarin speakers make promises in naturally occurring conversation but also sheds light on understanding a wide range of social actions in interaction by underlining the fundamental dimensions of commitment and obligation.

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