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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation examines one of the most widely observed grammatical phenomena in a number of languages, the dative subject construction (e.g. John-ni nihongo-ga hanaseru 'John can speak Japanese/it is possible for John to speak Japanese'). The greatest controversy surrounding the Japanese dative subject construction concerns the grammatical status of the nouns (i.e. the ni-marked first NP, John, and the ga-marked second NP, Japanese) in this construction. A number of different linguistic traditions including generative grammar, functionalism and the kokugogaku ('the study of the national language') tradition have examined this phenomenon, and a number of hypotheses have been advanced. However, no comprehensive studies on the phenomenon have yet been done with naturally occurring conversation as the primary source of data. Also very little attention has been paid to the questions of how this construction appeared/developed diachronically. In utilizing pre-modern and modern Japanese discourse data, this dissertation aims to accomplish three goals. The initial objective is to provide evidence that the dative subject construction is, in fact, rarely found in naturally occurring conversation, and the patterns observed in actual discourse are significantly different from those examples found in prior linguistic literature. The second goal is to demonstrate how the occurrences of this construction are similar and/or different depending on discourse types (i.e. spoken language vs. written language; narrative portion vs. conversational portion). The final goal is to offer an alternative to the past approaches. In opposition to the standard account that the Japanese dative subject construction is related to a transitive clause, the NP1-ga NP 2-ga pattern, based on my diachronic and synchronic analysis, I propose that the dative subject construction may have emerged from the existential/locational construction via the metonymic use of ni, which marked a locative-like NP for defocusing its agentivity to avoid the explicit mention of an individual worthy of respect. In view of the results presented in this dissertation, instead of talking of its grammatical status, the so-called "dative subject" ni in modern Japanese discourse may be better characterized in terms of its discourse-pragmatic functions, which derived from its locative nature.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
East Asian Studies