The interactional nature of suspended clause constructions in Japanese Essay

In spoken Japanese, subordinate clauses often occur without their main clauses. Ohori (1995; 1997) called them suspended clause constructions (SCCs) and formulated that a SCC occurs when “the intended message is either contextually inferable or conventionalized.” However, it is not very clear when and how the conversational participants know whether the intended message is contextually inferable (or conventionalized) or not, since a SCC and a “non-suspended version” of subordinate clause are not totally distinct category. Therefore, in order to consider the motivation for SCCs, we need to look carefully at the details of the process of producing SCCs. Based on the corpus analysis on naturally occurring conversational recordings, I propose to modify Ohori’s formulation from the Interactional Linguistic point of view.1 IntroductionIt has been widely known that, in spoken Japanese, subordinate clauses (e.g. kedo- /kara- /node- /noni- clauses) often occur without their main clauses (Martin, 1975; Hinds, 1986). While they are syntactically incomplete, they comprise a complete utterance. For example, in (1), speaker A uses a kedo (‘though,’ ‘but’) clause without its main clause.

Ohori (1995; 1997) argued that such patterns can be seen as independent grammatical constructions in the sense of Fillmore et al. (1988) and called them suspended clause constructions (SCCs). Answering to a question of “under what conditions can a clause ‘marked for subordination’ not be accompanied by a following main clause?” (pp.201-202), Ohori (1995) formulated that a SCC occurs when “the intended message is either contextually inferable or conventionalized” (p.213).

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From the Construction Grammarians’ point of view, Ohori (1995:216) argued tha…

…r when and how the conversational participants know whether the intended message is contextually inferable (or conventionalized) or not, since a SCC and a “non-suspended version” of subordinate clause are not totally distinct category. Therefore, in order to consider the motivation for SCCs, we need to look carefully at the details of the process of producing SCCs.Based on the corpus analysis on naturally occurring conversational recordings, I found that it cannot be predetermined whether an subordinate clause is a SCC or not. Rather, SCCs are realized retrospectively as a result of interactive negotiation among conversational participants. Thus, I propose to modify Ohori’s formulation as follows: a SCC occurs when the fact that the intended message is either contextually inferable or conventionalized is interactionally observable by the participants’ behavior.

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