Japanese negative suffix nai in conversation: Its formulaicity and intersubjectivity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study investigates how speakers use ‘nai-expressions’ (a verb root + the negative suffix (a)nai as in shabere-nai ‘cannot speak’ and ik-anai ‘will/do not go’) in naturally occurring conversation. The data demonstrate that although negative utterances have been considered to be ‘grammatical’ constructions that simply negate the truth value of a proposition, nai-expressions show formulaic tendencies and serve not only to express a speaker’s emotional personal stance on a particular story/event but also to create interpersonal space with other conversation participant(s) and to involve them in the story/event. The patterns which emerged from the data are quite similar to those in Ono and Thompson’s study on Japanese adjectives. As they pointed out, some of nai-expressions in the data may also be re-analyzed as adjectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-482
Number of pages23
JournalDiscourse Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Construction
  • Japanese conversation
  • discourse analysis
  • formulaicity
  • grammar-pragmatics interface
  • interaction
  • intersubjectivity
  • involvement
  • negation
  • negative suffix
  • phonological reduction
  • repetition
  • structural fixedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Japanese negative suffix nai in conversation: Its formulaicity and intersubjectivity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this