Expressivity in discourse: Vocatives and themes in Japanese

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As part of an exploration into the expressivity of language, this study examines vocatives and themes in Japanese discourse. Based on examples taken from comics, romance novels, and fiction, I argue that vocative and thematic strategies are pragmatically motivated in a similar manner and they both convey the speaker's varying emotional expressivity toward participants and characters relevant in discourse. Vocatives and themes achieve expressivity because they identify the target object/image of the speaker's attention and emotion, which encourages shared perspectives of interpretation. Varied vocative and thematic strategies in Japanese are discussed and their functional significance is emphasized. Particular focus is directed at variation of themes with and without markers, including "floating themes" which share a similar functional source with vocatives. This study draws from theories of discourse functionalism, traditional Japanese rhetoric of futaku, and the concept of shared perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-705
Number of pages27
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Discourse analysis
  • Emotions
  • Expressive function of language
  • Japanese
  • Vocatives


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