Contrastive Discourse

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A contrastive discourse analysis of warnings


Cheung, Wai-ling, Sonia.; _5ags².


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Abstract of thesis entitled

A contrastive discourse analysis of warnings
submitted by Wai Ling Sonia Cheung a dissertation presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics at the University of Hong Kong August 2001

The study explores the dynamics of the words and the world of Hong Kong represented in its warnings. In other words, it studies how space is construed through meaning. The study examines warning signs by using contrastive social semiotics in three aspects: the signs themselves as material space, the location of the signs in temporal and spatial space, and the participation of hearers and speakers in social space. The sample consisted of 1200 warning signs collected at public places in Hong Kong. The findings suggest that warnings and prohibitions could be like a coin observed from two sides. Warning signs associated with safety are rich in use of implicature. Prohibitions associated with the prevention of behaviours that risk others' safety are rich in legal discourse. A comparison of Chinese and English shows how the two languages express concrete and abstract spaces. The findings also suggest how social behaviours are regulated across temporal and spatial distance. The participation in meaning making shows how socio-cultural assumptions are implicitly at work. The assumption's reveal social expectations such as the rights to know danger and to make decision, liability and personal injury litigation, public accountability and civil responsibility. As a result, the study may provide evidence to a better understanding of urban space in Hong Kong, in which space may be regulated,...
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