Grammar, with attitude: On the expressivity of certain da sentences in Japanese

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This paper investigates the Japanese predicate da as a device for linguistic expressivity. Based on examples taken from Japanese comics and novels, it is argued that da functions, not only as a copulative predicate but also, and more relevant to this study, as a modality indicator signaling the speaker's conclusive and assertive attitude toward his or her own verbal performance. These functions are connected, in part, to da's fundamental indexical capacity to express stativity and to communicate the speaker's general situational assessment. The indexical meaning, which is interactionally motivated as well as dialogically and contextually interpreted, offers a ready means for emotional expressivity associated with da. The paper emphasizes the importance of investigating the expressivity of a grammatical device even when such device is seemingly unrelated to the attitudinal meaning. The paper also raises a theoretical point that certain grammatical devices must be viewed, first and foremost, as being attitudinal, and their indexical meanings must be understood in the context of real-life communication. Accordingly, contrary to the commonly held view, one must consider, at least in certain cases, the modal expressive meaning as being primary and its abstract propositional meaning secondary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-250
Number of pages36
Issue number360
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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