From a spatial to a subjective framework: The semantic and pragmatic change of ni-marked NPs in Japanese discourse

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Abstract

The current study examines pre-modern and modern Japanese texts from the seventh to the twentieth century, and documents the semantic and pragmatic change of ni-marked NPs, which include "dative subjects" and NPs which appear to refer to human referents. The data demonstrates that what are called "dative subjects" in modern Japanese are diachronically and synchronically related to the most prototypical meaning/usage of ni-marked NPs as a spatial framework. The original function underwent changes from more propositional to more subjective usages - from its most basic usage, indicating stative locations, to its metonymic usage, marking locations where individuals worthy of respect reside so as to avoid their explicit mention, and finally to its extended usage, indicating human referents. This extended usage further developed into a subjective framework for propositions in contemporary Japanese novels written in the first person perspective. This shift from propositional to expressive/subjective usages is not binary, but rather continual, and the transition from one usage to another involves each new usage coexisting with the prior ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-139
Number of pages46
JournalJournal of Historical Pragmatics
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 3 2008

Keywords

  • Dative subject
  • Duality
  • Immediate experiencer
  • Japanese ni
  • Metonymic location
  • Subjectification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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