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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics of Japanese Addressee-Honorific Markers
by Yamada, Akitaka, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2019, 568; 27668871
Abstract (Summary)

Despite the long tradition of studies on the Japanese honorific system, formal analyses of addressee-honorific markers have not been carried out until very recently. Although not explicitly claimed, it was more or less assumed that they were just extra `ornaments' encoding politeness that piggy-back on the main body of the sentence. This study aims to demonstrate that such a naïve assumption fails to explain the complexity of this system. The syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of addressee-honorific markers all exhibit unexpected and intriguing behaviors that cannot be easily explained or predicted by extant theories.

The main body of this dissertation consists of one chapter summarizing the basic facts about the Japanese honorific system and three chapters discussing issues in the domain of (morpho)syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.

First, this study discusses the role of syntax in the Japanese addressee-honorific system and concludes that many of what have been regarded as syntactic properties are better understood to be morphological and/or pragmatic issues, reducing the role of syntax. The literature of the syntax-discourse interface has for the most part convincingly argued that discourse-oriented elements are distributed around/above CP (Speas and Tenny 2003; Haegeman and Hill 2013; Miyagawa 2012, 2017; Zu 2018). Nevertheless, the Japanese -mas is pronounced in a very low position far from the clause periphery. To account for the data, I adopt the framework of Distributed Morphology and argue that (i) an honorific feature is postsyntactically inserted by the morphology (sprouting) (Choi and Harley 2019; Oseki and Tagawa 2019) and (ii) that it has an agreement relation with the syntactically represented hearer in the clause periphery. It is also known that addressee-honorific markers exhibit an interaction with sentence mood; i.e., they are necessary for response-seeking questions (Miyagawa 2017). Inheriting important insights from Dynamic Pragmatics, it is shown that this is much more easily explained in terms of pragmatic principles, rather than syntactic rules (Chapter 3).

Second, the way addressee-honorific markers contribute to the context update is discussed. One dominant view in previous studies is the real-based approach, which assumes that there is a particular honorific range stored in the structured discourse context, and the context update is conceived of as a replacement for an old interval (e.g., <Akitaka, [0.7, 0.9], Paul>) with a new interval proposed by, or in negotiation with, the sentence (e.g., <Akitaka, [0.6, 0.9], Paul>) (Potts 2007b; cf., Potts and Kawahara 2004; McCready 2014, 2017, 2019). This dissertation demonstrates that such a simple replacement does not capture important properties of the context update regarding addressee-honorifics and, as an alternative, I propose a model in which the target of the update is a set of summary parameters that represent the past conversation. By integrating Bayesian statistics into Dynamic Pragmatics, we can characterize these summary parameters in many different ways. One can understand that discourse participants keep estimating each other person’s hidden honorific attitude. Alternatively, it is also possible to see them as representing the speaker's publicized self-image (Chapter 4).

Finally, this dissertation discusses why addressee-honorific markers are embedded in certain indirect speech contexts (cf., Alok and Baker 2018; Baker and Alok 2019; Alok 2019; Baker 2019; Kaur and Yamada 2019). Although we anticipate that discourse-oriented elements should be restricted to the main clause, Japanese addressee-honorific markers are often embedded in indirect speech contexts and, when embedded, special semantic and pragmatic effects emerge (the commitment effect and the enhancement effect). To account for these facts, I propose that speech act layers are embeddable. By elucidating the semantics of such functional projections, I argue that Speaker Projection (SpP) commits the speaker to the proposition expressed by the embedded clause (TP) and that the interpretable addressee-honorific feature from the embedded Addressee Projection (AddrP) enhances the politeness level of the sentence (Chapter 5).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Portner, Paul H.
Commitee: Kramer, Ruth, Tomioka, Satoshi, Zeldes, Amir
School: Georgetown University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Language
Keywords: (Addressee-)Honorifics, Bayesian statistics, Dynamic pragmatics, Multidimensional semantics, Node-sprouting, Speech act projection
Publication Number: 27668871
ISBN: 9781392514795
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