To mark or not to mark the cause, that is the question: Causal marking in Taiwanese conversation

Miao Hsia Chang*, Hsin Yi Su

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The present study investigates the discourse-pragmatic functions of the causal marker inui in Taiwanese Southern Min (TSM) conversation and compares them with unmarked causal utterances. It also explores the intonation patterning and distribution of overt and non-overt causal utterances in TSM. The functions of inui are categorized into five types: (1) pure-cause marking, (2) explanation marking, (3) justification marking, (4) understanding display, and (5) information interpolation. Among them, the information-interpolating function characterizes inui as a non-causal logical connector. The analysis shows that inui is interactively driven and used to achieve social comity. It is employed particularly when a speaker recognizes the need to provide the addressee with a better and friendlier ground for conversation in order to avoid face threat, to resolve a trouble of talk, or to fill an information gap. The occurrence of inui is sensitive to seriousness of topics, the social relation between interlocutors, and the speaker's attitude to the topic of talk. When the speech situation does not call for an explicitly marked account, inui is not used. The lower frequency of inui compared with that of English because and Mandarin yinwei in conversation data further corroborates the interactive nature of inui. As for the positioning and intonation patterning, the results conform to previous findings, i.e., causal clauses tend to occur after the materials they modify.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1743-1763
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Oct


  • Causal marking
  • Conversation analysis
  • Intonation patterning
  • Taiwanese Southern Min
  • Unmarked causal utterance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


Dive into the research topics of 'To mark or not to mark the cause, that is the question: Causal marking in Taiwanese conversation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this