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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From sentence to discourse : integrated explanations for certain linguistic phenomena in Japanese Ono, Mieko


This thesis examines those aspects of language in which syntax and extra-syntactic factors interface. There are three major approaches to discourse study (interpretation of a sentence in discourse): i) Discourse Study without Syntax: Any linguistic phenomena can be explained through discourse; syntax is dissolved into discourse study. ii) Discourse Study Interacting with Syntax: Syntactic rules and discourse functions interact or intermingle with each other. iii) Modular Approach to Discourse Study: Syntax is autonomous, but can feed information into other extra-syntactic components to obtain the final interpretation of a sentence in context. Approach (iii) is adopted here, where a "Government and Binding" (Chomsky (1981)) type of generative grammar is assumed as the syntactic framework. Four linguistic phenomena in Japanese are chosen for case studies of the mode of interaction between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Chapter 2 examines the Japanese reflexive zibun. The co-reference problem is solved through syntactic rules for the anaphoric use and discourse rules for the referential use. Chapter 3 examines demonstratives. Since they are originally used as deixis, the problem is mainly discussed in semantic and discourse arenas. The comparison between pronoun and demonstrative is also discussed. Both Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 deal with the problem of coreference, which is one disambiguation mechanism in the comprehension of discourse. Chapter 4 examines quantifier interpretation. This problem involves another type of disambiguation mechanism. The scope interpretation being represented in LF, why a certain reading is obtained in the actual discourse environment is explained from the viewpoint of the human attention system (conscious and unconscious). Chapter 5 examines the particle wa, which is most commonly considered a topic marker or an old information marker. Wa marks a certain semantic structure in syntactic representation and such a wa-sentence has an important function in discourse organization. The nature of the contrastiveness associated with a wa sentence is explained in this light. In this modular type of approach, the phenomena which were formerly explained by fairly complex sets of rules have become more transparent, and some seemingly conflicting analyses done in the past are now considered as analyses of different aspects of a single phenomenon.

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