From Japanese to General Linguistics: Starting with the Wa and Ga Particles

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From Japanese to General Linguistics: Starting with the Wa and Ga Particles
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   27 From Japanese to General Linguistics:Starting with the Wa  and Ga  Particles A WLODARCZYK Université Charles de Gaulle (Lille 3), Lille, France 0. Introduction This paper presents the results of our long lasting research on two Japanese particles wa  and ga . These particles have been studied at great length in Japan since the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). We show that whenever a constituent with wa  or ga  particle appears in an utterance, it must not necessarily be recognised either as a S (with ga ) or as a T (with wa ). Indeed, (a) ga  particle can refer to many other syntactic constituents than the S itself (namely such as Location, Cause etc) and (b) wa  particle cannot systematically be explained as a marker of T only. The meanings of wa and ga  particles are related also to their position in the sentence and to intonation markers.Furthermore, we intend to present the theory we developed during the two following periods :in the 1970s (functional approach) and in the 1990s (logic-based generalisation of the functional theory sketched previously). First, analysing the complex relations which are marked in Japanese utterances by wa  and ga  particles and then extending our observations and hypotheses to many linguistic discourse-dependent categories in different languages (such as mediative modality, aspect, tense, quantification, etc.), we elaborated a general theory of information validity 1  of linguistic utterances.Lastly, we proposed a systematic treatment of the S, T and F in a unified theoretical framework. This enabled us to explain the identifying and selective roles the Japanese wa  and ga  particles (described 1  We use the term “information” to refer to the content of utterances seen as semantic situations and the term “meta-information” to point to everything that is related to the presentation of information (semantic contents) in discourse. Most widely, in linguistics what we call meta-information is simply referred to as information.  28 A WLODARCZYKFrom Japanese to General Linguistics 29 bigger linguistic units may combine with the representations of syntagmatic structures. Let us call the former  paratactic  and the latter syntactic expressions  (constructs).In our approach, we also take advantage of the concept of “privative opposition” (one term of which is marked and the other – unmarked  ) proposed by Structuralists and used in order to distinguish between primary and secondary functions of grammatical categories (Jakobson, and many other Functional Structuralist linguists). As Givón T. (1995, p. 9) put it: “the notion of markedness entered structural linguistics via the Prague School, initially as a refinement of Saussure’s concept of the valeur linguistique  in binary distinctions. The Pragueans noted that binary distinctions in  phonology and grammar were systematically skewed, or asymmetrical. One member of the contrasting pair acted as the ‘presence’ of a property, the other as its ‘absence’”.  Let us emphasize also that the unmarked term of an opposition is more context-dependent than the marked term and is therefore likely to express more numerous secondary functions. 2. Wa , Ga  and Other Similar Particles For modern linguists, wa   and ga  particles constitute one of the most interesting and arduous problems of Japanese grammar, but these particles cannot be explained properly without taking into account the other particles that belong to the same classes of morphemes that ga  and wa  represent; i.e., “case” particles ( kaku-joshi ) and “concordance” particles ( kakari-joshi ), also called more recently “collection” particles   ( toritate-joshi ). We will draw attention to the fact that in the structure of the Japanese language some grammatical morphemes refer to contiguity  (case particles) whereas others refer to similarity  (concordance particles). Therefore, the Japanese theory of kernel grammar should take into account not only syntagmatic (actual, in  praesentia ) relations but also paradigmatic (virtual, in absentia ) relations. In this paper, we argue that in Japanese (and in all other languages) at least in simple sentence structures, S, O, T and F seem to be at the same time the result of both syntagmatic  organisation of discourse and  paradigmatic  mappings between virtual (implicit) concept representations. Let us emphasize that whenever a constituent with wa  or ga  particle appears, it should not automatically be recognised either as a S (with ga ) or as a T (with wa ). Indeed, (a) the ga  particle can refer to many syntactic functions (such as Object, Location etc) other than the S itself and (b) the wa  particle cannot systematically be explained as a marker of T only.rather intuitively in the first period of our research) play in the discourse. 1. Theoretical Assumptions In the tradition of kokugogaku  (Japanese Language Studies), even after the introduction of Western linguistic theories, there is still a trend in Japan consisting in seeking first of all idiosyncratic features of Japanese grammar (those features which are designed to highlight the clear differences between Japanese and other types of languages). Indeed, we also think that it is possible to build more than one general  theory (or model) of language starting with any language, and that the resulting theories will most probably differ from one another. Just recall that – despite the presumed universal  framework – the fundamental differences between two generative syntactic theories (Chomsky’s constituency-based syntax and Saumjan’s application-based syntax) inevitably reflected the differences between English (positional syntax) and Russian (flexional syntactic markers).It has been shown that functional linguistics can be formalised using set-theoretical modelling techniques 2 . The recurrent tenet of functionalist approaches is supported by the fact that some linguistic structures can be seen as co-occurring (“present” in expressions, named as syntagmatic ) and the others as virtual (“absent” from expressions, named  paradigmatic ). Let us reword this notional dichotomy 3  in the following way:(a) structures which co-occur in the same expression are explicit   whereas (b) structures which must be inferred or completed by cognitive processes are implicit   (context-dependent). It is well known that the context-dependency of speech is fundamental for explaining the partiality of linguistic expressions. Consequently, it constitutes the foreground of the bi-dimensional nature of linguistic structures. There is much evidence that during communication processes, natural languages exhibit various context-dependent characteristics. Thus, in our approach, we extend the notions of paradigmatic structures because we consider that, in a similar way to syntagmatic structures, the former can also be organised in hierarchical layers. Because the syntagmatic relations are characteristic of co-occurring structures, the paradigmatic relations cannot be defined but with respect to the former. The representations of paradigmatic structures when used in 2  Cf. Pogonowski J. (1979) 3  Cf. De Saussure F., the founder of the classical structural linguistics.  30 A WLODARCZYKFrom Japanese to General Linguistics 31 The meanings of {wa, mo, koso, sae} particles as membership  markers are as follows :(1)   wa  – indication   :an element a  belongs to the set  A , i.e. : a       A  #1.     Jishaku wa  kurogane o hiki-tsukeru.  (Magnets attract iron.)(2)  mo  – comparison :the element a  belongs to the set A, this membership being established with respect to b which is another element belonging to the same set  A , i.e : a,b       A  #2.      Kyoo    mo   mata ame desu . (Today, too, it is raining.)(3)  koso  – insistence   :the element a  belongs to the set  A  and  A  is a subset of  B , i.e : a       A ,  A       B  #3.       Ano tatemono    koso   daihyôteki-na Nihon-kaoku desu . (It is precisely this building that is representative of Japanese house architecture.)(4)  sae  – concession :the element a  belongs to the set  A  where  A  is a subset of  B  and the identity of a  is established by contrast with b , i.e. : a       B , b       A ,  A       B  #4.      Gakusha  de  sae shirarenai koto o kare wa shitte iru.  (He knows things even that scholars do not know.) Moreover, we observed that the concordance particles { wa, mo, koso, sae } can be characterized by a logical square in which { wa/mo } are opposed to { koso/sae }. The fact that the concatenations koso+wa  and sae+mo  are possible cannot serve as a counter-argument against this position. On the contrary, it constitutes the proof of the square character of { wa/mo  || koso/sae  || wa/koso  || mo/sae } oppositions because no concatenation – neither *koso+mo  nor *sae+wa  – is acceptable. This can be explained by the contradictory  relations in the logical square.wa mokoso saeIndeed, particles can mark different kinds of logical relations in different European grammars are based upon a sentential predicate structure (with obligatory S) whereas, in Japanese, since there is no morphological agreement between S and P, the S constituent is optional and the Predicate is the only obligatory constituent of the sentence. Of course, it is always possible to supply the S of the sentence mentally, but the fact that two different morphemes may be placed after the S is the cause of many interpretation problems. The advocates of the generative trends in linguistics consider wa  as a marker of the T and ga  as a marker of the S. However, this interpretation is not satisfactory because it introduces a deletion rule concerning the ga  particle before the wa  particle (i.e.:ga + wa).Furthermore, we assume that this interpretation fails to explain other possible meanings of the Japanese wa  and ga  particles. The particle ga  can refer to more than one syntactic function (such as that of O or L in Space or Time, etc.), and the particle  wa  can also be attached either to a S or to a T. As a matter of fact, we can observe the same opposition between wa  and ga  when they are attached to S, O and other kinds of phrases 2.1. Concordance Particles as Membership Markers Generally speaking, the concordance particles are markers of reflexive and analogical identity in the set-theoretical sense. The figure below (Fig.1) shows how some of these particles can be classified according to the criterion of “being the member of a selected element of virtual set”. Fig. 1.  Concordance particles as membership markers simplemembership membershipand inclusion reflexive identity   indicationinsistencecomparisonconcession analogical identity � �    � �  a  wa a  koso a  mo a  saeAAAABB  32 A WLODARCZYKFrom Japanese to General Linguistics 33 correspond to the concepts of Subject and Topic. Indeed, they express special cases of each of the above identities:predicative identity for Subject and set-theoretical identity for Topic. Furthermore, in Japanese as well as in other languages, Subject and Topic are often associated in speech processes. Let us mention that it is precisely due to this fact that the properties of the wa  and ga  particles constitute a difficult problem in Japanese grammar.In order to grasp the specificity of the predicate structure in Japanese, let us compare the Japanese identification sentence a wa b da (which is the reading of our formula:isa(a,b) with its English equivalent “a is b ” . We can consider this problem in a contrastive manner from two different points of view; i.e.:(1) starting from Japanese and (2) starting from English.(1) Starting from Japanese. First, let us analyse the Japanese sentence a wa b da . We said its English equivalent was “a is b” but, as the matter of fact, if we take into account all its nuances, they might possibly be translated in four different ways : 1. a exists as b. 2. ?a exists as being b. 3. As for a, it exists as b. 4. ?As for a, it exists as being b.Versions 1 and 3 are felt as more natural than versions 2 and 4. Despite their “unusual” character, versions 2 and 4 can be justified by the fact that the Japanese copula “da” is sometimes (especially in written language) even today replaced by “de aru” ( de  the participial form of “to be” and aru  “(to) exist”). simplemembershipmembershipand inclusionreflexive identity negative indicationcontrastive comparison analogical identity ��    a  waABA   a  wa Fig. 2 Contrastive wa  particle sentence positions (not only in post-nominal positions). Among others, we find one set-theoretical class (concordance particles) and one predicate-theoretical class (case particles). However, we do not wish to suggest that all the logical relations have their equivalents or one-to-one mappings in natural languages. 2.2. Predicate and Set-theoretical Identities Let us consider the following two kinds of identity :(1) a  is b. p(a,b) ; i.e.:predicative identity of a  with respect to b  where p  = isa,(2) a  belongs to  A .  (  a       A ) ; i.e.:set-theoretical identity 4  of a .For our purpose, the most important distinction to be made between different functions of the copula concerns the identification  (assertion concerning the terms of relations) and the classification  (assertion about sets and their elements or their subsets of elements). If we want to formulate both at the same time, we must consider that there are indeed two different orders in utterances:actual (explicit) and virtual (implicit). Recall the syntagmatic and paradigmatic axes above. An attempt to formulate the two orders at once is given below : {a   A, b   B; p(a, b)}where p = the verb “to be” considered as a 2-place predicate of the isa  kind.The reading of such a formula would be something like this:“[a being a] taken as an (explicit) element of an (implicit) set A is recognised as b taken as an (explicit) element of another (implicit) set B”.We claim that such twofold relations can be used to explain the Japanese utterances containing wa  and ga  particles not only when they 4  The identity problem in any language is closely related to the copula to be .(1) identification:(a) equality: a is b,  (b) identity : The Morning Star is Venus. (2) attribution:(a) as a relation of belonging: Socrates is a man,  (b) as the subset relationship: Whales are mammals. (3) implementation:(a) location:  John is in London, (b) existence: God exists, (c) possession :  John has a car, (d) ingredience: The hand has fingers.  The above relations have different properties as concerns reflexivity, transitivity and symmetry. This difference is not clearly made in natural languages where the same copula may be used for one or the other relation; and this is the cause of many traditional paradoxes in syllogistic reasoning.  34 A WLODARCZYKFrom Japanese to General Linguistics 35 some features of the Japanese particles wa/ga  and the features of articles in English (and in some other European languages). Both noun and verb phrases may be given  (supposed/intended to be known to the addressee) or both may be new  (supposed/intended to be unknown to the addressee). The Japanese speakers use the version 1 in the first case, and the version 3 in the second case. On the other hand, the noun phrase with a  may be considered as denoting some given  (meta)information (a wa ) or new  (meta)information (a ga ) while the verb phrase is supposed to contradict the above by denoting the opposite kind of (meta)information ( new  and given  respectively). Because of this contradiction, the Japanese versions correspond in English to a topicalised utterance (As for a , it is b ) or to a focalised one (It is a that is b ).When speaking we communicate our representations of the World rather than point to the 'Reality'. In this respect, the Japanese wa  and ga  particles play roles which are in some way related to those of definite and indefinite articles in that both of them help mark the given  and new  information respectively.When both S and P are given , the wa  particle attached to the S has one of the following degrees of information validity: anaphoric < virtual < habitual < general < generic . #6.   Sakura no hana wa taihen utsukushii desu.  (Cherry blossoms are very nice.)We interpret utterance #6 as having a “general” value, i.e. expressing common knowledge about flowers.When both S and P are new , the ga particle attached to the S has one of the following degrees of information validity: cataphoric < actual < occasional < particular < specific . #7.   O-niwa no sakura no hana ga kirei desu ne.  (The cherry blossoms in your garden are beautiful, aren’t they?)We interpret utterance #7 as asserting a “particular” state of affairs. The flowers of this garden are beautiful. #5.   O-tôsan ga go-byôki de wa, iro-iro to shimpai na koto deshô.  (Your father being ill, you must be very much worried.)But there is another reason why da  can be replaced by de aru . Indeed, different particles such as wa, mo, koso, sae, dake  etc. are allowed between de  and the verb of existence  aru .If we use a model-theoretical interpretation of linguistic predicates, then it becomes possible to assume that all the structures are equipped with an identity relation id ( a ), and the exceptions will have to be explicitly mentioned. Therefore, our model of the simplest isa  relation would be as follows:  ISA  = { a   A,  id(a)  ; b   B, id(b)  :isa(a, b)}Thus, two different representations can be proposed for two different Japanese utterances:  a wa b da.   { a   A,  id(a)  :isa(a,b)}  a wa b de  wa nai . { a   A,  id(a)  ; b   B, id(b)  :not isa(a,b)}(2) Starting from English. In order to understand the specificity of the Japanese predicate structure, let us consider the possible equivalents of the English reading of the same identification formula a is b.  1. a wa b da. 2. a wa b de aru. 3. a ga b da.   4. a ga b de aru.Two particles wa  and ga  occur alternatively in the above four sentences and it is necessary to distinguish the differences of their meanings in order to explain the Japanese sentence structure:“ a wa b da ”. Before we do this, we must add that sentences 1-2 differ from 3-4 in that the former are considered to be natural whereas the latter may be used only in a specific context (for example:“emphasis” or “exhaustive listing”, cf. Kuno S. – 1970, 1973, 1977). On the other hand, if we compare both versions 1-3 with versions 2-4, some Japanese native speakers might prefer the former couple. The reason is that one would rather use such sentences in speech (2-4 versions belong rather to the written style).Let us now concentrate on the noun phrase with a  only. At first sight, nothing allows us to compare wa  and ga  with English articles the  and a  since we do not even use “the a” or “an a” in the English reading of the formula. Nevertheless, it is possible to point out a few similarities between
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