Reanalysis of contrastive -wa in Japanese: Perspectives from newspaper articles

Toshiko Yamaguchi


This paper examines the behavior of contrastive –wa in Japanese written discourse. While supporting its local nature (Clancy and Downing 1987), the paper argues, based on a survey of newspapers, that localness alone is not sufficient to understand the nature of contrast. It proposes that the use of contrastive –wa is motivated by how the writer perceives the world, or what Chafe (1994) calls ‘conscious experience’. We propose literal opposition, evaluation, association, and conflict as its main components. In the final part, the paper relates the results to the recent study on Contrastive Topic (Lee 1999, 2000, 2003), stating that the CT-approach is still unable to account for the entire range of phenomena discovered. The paper suggests that the discrepancies arise because of the fact that natural data integrates the writer’s context-specific intentions, to which priority is not given in formalistic approaches.

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