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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The correspondence between vowel quality and verbal telicity in Yamato-Japanese Fujimori, Atsushi


The main goal of this thesis is to report a sound meaning correspondence in Japanese verbs which have thus far not been recognized. In particular, I show that the non-low vowels mark verbal telicity, which defines an inherent endpoint of an eventuality. This correspondence holds in verbs of the native lexical stratum, Yamato-Japanese. I further show that the correspondence is synchronically part of the grammar, by showing that fluent speakers of Japanese are sensitive to the correspondence in nonce verbs. These facts cast doubt on the standard assumption that such verbs are morphologically simplex. Thus, another goal of this thesis is to develop a morpho-syntactic analysis for the correspondence, within the framework of Chomsky’s generative grammar. I argue that the correspondence associates with the syntactic category for telicity, inner Aspect. Language-internally, this argument implies that seemingly simplex verbs are the result of morpho-syntactic processing. Cross-linguistically, the argument contributes to the understanding that languages differ as to whether inner Aspect has an overt marker. Such differences strongly support the notion that inner Aspect is not only a category in lexical semantics but also a category in syntax.

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