Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Nominal Apposition in Japanese

Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Nominal Apposition in Japanese

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. This paper examines a group of constructions in Japanese that have been associated with the notion of NOMINAL APPOSITION. The relation between two NPs linked by the particle -no is the focus of this study. The construction [NP1-no NP2] is examined against a set of syntactic and semantic conditions. Based on criteria proposed in the literature and on the semantic and syntactic traits observed in the data, I will conclude that [NP1-no NP2] is best analyzed as subordination where [NP1-no] is a relative clause. A survey of other constructions involving two contiguous NPs suggests that an appositive relation is found in [NP1 NP2] where the two NPs are coreferent.

INTRODUCTION. (1) Although a substantial amount of literature on apposition in English exists, appositive-like constructions in Japanese have not been studied in detail. (2) Moreover, whether appositives make up a unique class that is sufficiently different from both subordination and coordination is still an open question.

Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik (1985) characterize apposition as 'primarily, and typically, a relation between noun phrases' and state that the minimum requirement for a structure to qualify as apposition

is that the two appositives are 'identical in reference' or at least that 'the reference of one must be included in the reference of the other' (pp. 1301-2). The former requirement is exemplified in 1 a and the latter in 2a.

(1) a. Anna, my best friend, was here last night

b. Anna was here last night

c. My best friend was here last night

(2) a. A neighbor, Fred Brick, is on the telephone

b. A neighbor is on the telephone

c. Fred Brick is on the telephone

In 1a Anna refers to the same person as my best friend while in 2a Fred Brick is one of the persons who can be identified as a neighbor. The minimal requirement as stated above matches the native speaker's intuition that the two items in apposition are equivalent in a most general sense. Quirk et al. (1985:1320) then offer the three-part set of conditions of FULL APPOSITION shown in 3. (3)

(3) a. Each of the appositives can be separately omitted without affecting the acceptability of the sentence.

b. Each fulfills the same syntactic function in the resultant sentences.

c. It can be assumed that there is no difference between the original sentence and either of the resultant sentences in extralinguistic reference.

Condition 3a refers to syntactic well-formedness whereas 3c addresses semantic equivalence. Since the omission condition 3a is met as a consequence of sameness of syntactic function described in 3b, 3a and 3b could be conflated into one condition of syntactic equivalence ensuring that each of the two apposed elements function independently in the absence of the other as in 1b,c and 2b,c. Thus, 3a-c are superseded by Burton-Roberts' reformulation of the conditions for apposition (1975:405, 1994:185), given in 4.

(4) a. Elements in apposition should converge in extralinguistic reference (1994); the NPs must be coreferential (1975).

b. [Elements in apposition] should be capable of being understood as having the same syntactic function with respect to the same other element in sentence structure.

Conditions 4a and 4b effectively rule out coordination and subordination respectively. Condition 4b refers to the syntactic equivalence applied to the original sentence that contains the apposition as well as to the two independent sentences that result from omitting one of the apposed elements. As expected, both la and 2a meet both the syntactic and the referential conditions. Note that although NP1 in 2a has an indefinite article, it satisfies 4a since the NP a neighbor has the same specific extralinguistic referent as Fred Brick, a definite NP. (4) This is what is called an INDEFINITE WITH SEMANTIC DEFINITENESS (Burton-Roberts 1975) or a REFERENTIAL INDEFINITE (Tawa 1993). …

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