Chapter published in:Fixed Expressions: Building language structure and social action
Edited by Ritva Laury and Tsuyoshi Ono
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 315] 2020
► pp. 41–70
Exploration into a new understanding of ‘zero anaphora’ in Japanese everyday talk
This chapter examines the phenomenon called ‘zero anaphora’ in Japanese where syntactic arguments, thought to be projected by the predicates, are assumed to be deleted yet their referents are still tracked. A close inspection of representative narrative and interactive segments reveals that everyday talk, the primordial form of language, is carried out largely through more or less fixed expressions which are better analyzed as not projecting syntactic arguments. This suggests that deletion of arguments and tracking of referents might not be relevant to the grammar of Japanese everyday talk. We demonstrate this by discussing several facts including: (1) inserting what might be thought of as ‘deleted’ arguments in relevant examples makes them consistently more marked, awkward, or even unacceptable and (2) ‘deleted’ arguments are often associated with multiple equally possible referents, or no referents. The predominance of fixed expressions in our data suggests that they constitute the basic type of language in Japanese everyday talk. It is hoped that the current study is a contribution to building a model of grammar which captures this very characteristic of everyday talk where (semi-) fixed structure continuously emerges.
Keywords: zero anaphora, ellipsis, zero, fixed expression, everyday talk, Japanese, English
Published online: 10 December 2020
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