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Word order variation in Japanese : characteristics of OSV word order Suzuki, Michiko

Abstract

This thesis attempts to explain the functions of the preposing of the direct object in Japanese. Japanese is generally a verb-final language and the basic word order is Subject (S) -> Object (O) -> Verb (V). However, it also has relatively free word order, and a direct object can be preposed to the sentence-initial position forming OSV word order. Although clauses expressed in SOV and OSV word orders are semantically identical, OSV is used much less frequently in comparison to SOV. This thesis examines the motivations behind the preposing of direct objects. As a first step toward understanding the possible functions of OSV word order, this thesis analyzes characteristics of preposed direct objects in its data collected from written materials. The results show that both structural characteristics and the information status of direct objects play roles in preposing. Structural characteristics found in preposed direct objects are that they tend to be lengthy, tend to contain demonstratives, or tend not be a direct object component of idiomatic expressions formed with a direct object and a verb. Preposed direct objects tend to convey information that is either linked to the preceding discourse, is linked to the hearer's knowledge, or is emphasized. The findings also show that the preposing of direct objects is motivated by various reasons depending on what is required to enhance communication in the context. Direct objects that have structurally different characteristics, namely those that contain demonstratives or long direct object phrases, are preposed for easier sentence processing or reference. In order to avoid ambiguity, preposing does not occur when the process would split an idiomatic expression comprised of a direct object and a verb. Preposing of direct objects conveying information linked to either the preceding discourse or the hearer's knowledge creates relevance between the preceding discourse and the present proposition. Preposing direct objects structurally indicates what information is emphasized. In other words, the preposing of direct objects facilitates effective communication.

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