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The Interactional Nature Of Suspended Clause Constructions In Japanese

1166 words - 5 pages

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 Introduction
It 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).

From the Construction Grammarians’ point of view, Ohori (1995:216) argued that “suspended clauses have their own discourse functions that are not manifest in non-suspended version […]. Notice that the pragmatic effects of suspended clauses […] are only partially reducible to the properties of clause-linking devices themselves.” In the diagram below is shown a relationship among the syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic features of the SCC.

2 Problems
Ohori’s formulation nicely describes the distinct features of SCCs compared to the “non-suspended” subordinate clauses, i.e., suspended clauses which occur with their main clauses. However, if we take a closer look at the details of the production process of SCCs, we can see that there must be considerable doubt as to whether SCCs are totally distinct from the “non-suspended” subordinate clauses.
First, it is not very clear when and how the conversational participants (i.e., the speaker and the hearers) know whether the intended message is contextually inferable (or conventionalized) or not. Syntactically speaking, the kedo clause in (1) could be followed by its main clause as we can see in (5).

Thus, whether a subordinate clause should be followed by its main clause or not is not predicable from the syntactic and semantic features of the...

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