Another conversation: Expressivity of Mitaina and inserted speech in Japanese discourse

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This study investigates conversation inserted within an utterance/sentence as observed in contemporary Japanese discourse. Based on examples taken from published interviews, internet BBS (bulletin board service) entries, essays, and fiction, I argue that inserted speech brings its expressive qualities into the current discourse in multiple ways, and accordingly it foregrounds emotivity, and communicates the identity of the speaker/writer. Specifically examined are cases: (1) where a conversation is followed by utterance/sentence-final mitaina, (2) where mitaina is used to connect the conversation to a noun, and (3) where conversation is used as a modifier, connected with no/na/tekina. Introducing another conversation in discourse enhances dialogicality as it interanimates multiple voices of the self and the other. Linguistic features available in conversation (and not in description) evoke another place of communication within the current place of communication, and the juxtaposition of these places foregrounds emotive meanings (e.g., intimacy) that are otherwise unavailable or left in the background. Mitaina adds the effect of the speaker/writer's approximate objectification of what is being said, facilitating the communication of the speaker/writer's attitude toward others (e.g., non-committal, disclaiming, hesitant). The paper advances the conversational, negotiative, and expressive view of language, and argues that conversation is not only a genre but also, and more relevant to this paper, a tool for self-expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-869
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


  • Conversation
  • Dialogicality
  • Genre-mixture
  • Japanese discourse
  • Mitaina
  • Place of Negotiation theory


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