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Yes and no problem


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What you said is correct (notice how I didn't say "yes"? hah).

In Mandarin, you tend to agree or disagree with the person answering questions.

So, "are you hungry?" is often answered with "hungry" or "not hungry".

You can also say "dui" which means "correct".

For a Mandarin speaking person learning English, it's just as confusing. When I ask my Taiwanese boyfriend "you're not hungry are you?" he answers "yes" to mean, well, "no" as he translates it in his head as "yes, I'm not hungry".

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I recently read a study on use of Yes-No Questions in Taipei vs Beijing... so I thought I would summarize it:

Sino-Platonic Papers

No. 27, 8/31/91

Yes-No Questions in Taipei and Beijing

1. A-not-A:

Ni qu bu qu ta jia?

Are you going-not-going to his home?

2. Intonation with ‘ma’

Ni qu ta jia ma?

Are you going to his home?

3. Intonation alone:

Ni qu ta jia?

Are you going to his home? (third person)

All three can be answered with: Wo qu or wo bu qu.

#1 in effect limits the possible answers to: qu or bu qu

# 2 and #3 can be additionally answered with: Shi / bu shi / dui / bu dui

Some debate was noted about the presumption on the questioners part; if the question poses the question expecting a certain answer, will they use predominantly of the forms above or not; and in the case of #3, where the syntax carries no presumption, one has to rely more on the context of the question to find any presumption. The feeling was that #3 carried the least presumption.

While the A-no-A was felt to be non-presumptuous, two possible answers are provided, there is a rhetorical questioning that can occur to make it carry a presumption.

The use of ‘ba’ seems to imply an expected answer (from the range of possible answers), as well as the A-no-A suffix:

4. Ni qu ta jia, shi bu shi?

Your going to this home, right?

5. Ni qu ta jia, dui bu dui?

Your going to his home, correct?

4. Ni qu ta jia ba?

I take it your going to his home, right?

The study found that in Taipei, A-no-A was preferred and in Beijing, intonation + ‘ma’ or ‘ba’.

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