Japanese no datta and no de atta in written discourse: Past forms of no da and no de aru

Hironori Nishi


The present study examines no datta and no de atta, which are the past-tense forms of no da and no de aru in written Japanese. The analysis demonstrates that the choice between the present-tense no da/no de aru and the past-tense no datta/no de atta does not affect the temporal interpretation when they follow past-tense morphemes. However, a close examination has also revealed that the past-tense no datta/no de atta cannot follow a past-tense morpheme when the ongoing mode of discourse is non-narrative, while no da/no de aru and no datta/no de atta are both available options when the discourse is in the mode of narrative. The present study also suggests that when no datta/no de atta is used in narrative, it indicates that the stated information is less impactful, less dramatic, and more temporally distant, compared to the cases where no da/no de aru is used.

Publication history
Table of contents

The n(o) da structure is one of the most frequently used expressions in Japanese, and the construction has been explored by various studies in the field of Japanese linguistics and discourse studies (e.g., Jorden 1963; Alfonso 1966; McGloin 1980, 1989; Kuno 1983; Aoki 1986; Takatsu 1991; Maynard 1992; Noda 1992, 1999; Iori 2000; Ijima 2010; Miyazawa 2018). The following example demonstrates a typical sentence that includes the n(o) da structure in Japanese. The n(o) da structure is used as a predicate-final expression that creates various communicative effects in discourse. The following sentence demonstrates a typical usage of the n(o) da structure in Japanese.

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