[Japanese | English]
Verbs can be formally represented as n-place predicates. These n places are filled by arguments (not necessarily "arguments" in a strict grammatical sense), but n is not a fixed and stable number. Commonly, oblique and obligatory arguments are distinguished, but what is semantically necessary/obligatory can be syntactically optional/oblique and vice versa. Furthermore, the obligatory - oblique (or necessary - optional) distinction is not a dichotomy: arguments are obligatory (or not) to a certain extent, depending on context.
I investigate a rhetorical polar question construction in Japanese, contrasting it with the English queclarative construction. The Japanese construction can be given either a negative rhetorical interpretation (as in English) or a positive interpretation (unavailable in English). The direction of interpretation can be shaped by the use of pragmatic particles. This paper focuses on two: the sentence final particle "yo" and the evidential particle "no", which favor the negative and positive interpretations respectively. I provide a semantic and pragmatic analysis of these particles, showing that they act on two distinct types of bias: epistemic in the case of "yo", and evidential in the case of "no". I further show that evidential bias trumps epistemic bias in shaping the direction of rhetorical interpretation. The Japanese construction is then contrasted with English queclaratives. I argue that while the semantics of the Japanese construction forces a rhetorical interpretation but leaves open the direction (positive or negative) of this interpretation, the English construction encodes the negative resolution in its semantics.
Semantics Research Group
Last modified: 2011-12-02 13:45:38 JST