On ga and wo alternation constructions in modern Japanese



Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Japanese has been generally classified as an SOV language, i.e. a language with the basic syntactic elements in an unmarked sentence ordered subject – object – (predicate) verb. This classification, although widely accepted, is problematic for various reasons. One has been represented by the decades lasting discussions of existence or nature of syntactic subject in the system of the Japanese language (see e.g. theories of Akira Mikami vs. Masayoshi Shibatani). Another has to do with the concept of object, which has been associated with marking by so called “(accusative) case particle wo”. Although the opposition of “nominative” [NP ga] and “accusative” [NP wo] in prototypical transitive constructions might seem straightforward, there are constructions in modern Japanese with far less obvious structure. Cases, such as Jitensha wo/ga riyo-shiyasui. (‘It’s easy to use a bicycle.’), Gareji ni jitensha wo/ga irete aru. (‘I have a bicycle put in the garage.’) or Jitensha wo/ga kaitai. (‘I want to buy a bicycle.’) show alterations in the use of nominative and accusative marker, casting doubts on the syntactic status of the noun phrase in question – subject vs. object. The goal of the present paper is to discuss the alteration constructions from the perspective of cognitively oriented construction grammar. It will be pointed out, that the function of the particle ga in these construction is closer to the focusing/defocusing (or toritate) marker than a purely syntactic case marker. This shall contribute both to reconsideration of the category of case in Japanese and to applications in the Japanese language education.

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