Syntactic Nesting in Japanese: An Analysis of Linking Utterances in Conversations

By Chisato Koike.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study investigates the ways in which speakers syntactically link the whole or part of their utterance to a preceding utterance of their own or of another participant in conversations through ‘syntactic nesting.’ I define ‘syntactic nesting’ as a discourse strategy that syntactically links the whole or part of an utterance with a preceding utterance in such a way that it fits as its constituent. In this study, using data from videotaped natural and spontaneous face-to-face conversations between native speakers of Japanese, I examine how speakers use syntactic nesting as a tying discourse device, focusing on their use of case particles that follow the noun and on their use of the repetition of preceding utterances. There have been various studies analyzing how speakers in Japanese discourse link their utterances to preceding utterances through different strategies: non-finite verb forms (Iwasaki 2002); post-posing and increment (Kuno 1978, Hinds 1982, Maynard 1989, Shibatani 1990, Ono and Suzuki 1992, Koike 2003); co-construction (Akatsuka 1997, Hayashi and Mori 1998, Hayashi 2003). Building on these previous studies, I demonstrate how participants in Japanese conversation construct utterances in such a way that they syntactically weave their utterances into prior utterances exploiting case particles in syntactic nesting. Although zero-marking of parts in utterances is pervasive in Japanese conversations (Hudson, Sakakibara, and Kondo 2006), I argue that participants explicitly mark parts of utterances with case particles to create a clear link between the host and insert utterances. My research on syntactic nesting sheds light on the discourse strategies in conversations by elucidating how participants produce utterances that build on prior utterances and how they insert the whole or part of their utterances into prior utterances through syntactic devices in order to achieve mutual understanding.

Keywords: Syntactic Nesting, Discourse Strategy

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 8, pp.1-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.823MB).

Chisato Koike

Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, California State University, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA


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