Examining the usage of xiao and its role as vague language in the textual conversations of Singapore millennials
Hong, Amanda Yu Hua
Date of Issue2018
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
This paper examines the use of the pragmatic particle xiao in the Singaporean context. Postulated to have originated from online Chinese discourse, xiao is used to alter the impact of utterances through the increment of vagueness in the propositions, adding ambiguity and signalling non-prototypical representations of the concepts expressed, as a method of mitigation to achieve politeness goals. The particle is applied in local conversations in its Romanised form, and is primarily inserted into English-dominant utterances, though also occasionally paired with Mandarin and Singapore Colloquial English terms. The adoption of this form of use by local participants indicates the existence of several underlying motivations that are socially driven, and its proliferation may be reflective of user perceptions towards its effectiveness in conversation. Xiao is observed to serve three main social functions – a marker for solidarity, a mask for inadequacy in linguistic proficiency or knowledge about the subject matter, and a way to protect the face of interlocutors. Additional modifiers such as ‘really’ and ‘a bit’ were also observed before the xiao+predicate combination, an indicator of the plausible conceptualisation of xiao and its associated predicate, and the degree of internalisation of the use of xiao among local users.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University