Contextual resources for inferring unexpressed referents in Japanese conversation

Tomoyo Takagi


The phenomenon of “elliptical” expressions in Japanese has been extensively studied in the field of Japanese linguistics. However, this phenomenon has been often treated as a general syntactic feature of Japanese, and the question of how this feature is realized in actual use of the language has been rather neglected. The present paper is intended to analyze how speakers of Japanese actually deal with the task of interpreting unexpressed elements that emerge in their talk in interaction. Using video- and audio-data of naturally occurring conversations in Japanese, it is shown that, in producing and understanding utterances involving unexpressed referents, conversational parties utilize not only their morphological and syntactic knowledge but also various, multilayered resources that are available to them in the immediate context of interaction.

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