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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Tense and Aspect in Old Japanese: Synchronic, diachronic, and typological perspectives Add Dissertation
Author: Kazuha Watanabe Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Cornell University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2008
Linguistic Subfield(s): Historical Linguistics; Morphology; Semantics; Syntax; Typology;
Subject Language(s): Japanese, Old
Director(s): John Whitman
Carol Rosen
Wayles Browne

Abstract: The objective of this thesis is to describe the synchronic system of tense
and aspect in Old Japanese. Japanese grammarians studying the tense/aspect
morphology of Old Japanese usually identify four suffixes (–(ye)ri, –tari,
–tu, and –nu) as kanryō 'perfect' markers and two suffixes (–ki and –kyeri)
as past tense markers. However, this analysis results in a typologically
unattested temporal system, characterized by an implausibly rich inventory
occupying a small semantic space. The traditional analysis is the product
of an approach focusing on identifying the meanings of the suffixes based
on contextual information, rather than the syntactic distribution of the
suffixes with respect to the lexical semantics of the co-occurring verbs
and the overall synchronic system of the language. Furthermore, previous
analyses have attempted to produce a uniform analysis covering the entire
700-year period from Old to Early Modern Japanese.

In contrast to previous research, I first define the semantic properties of
the aspectual markers and their relation to the lexical verb, using data
from well-attested languages. Second, I identify the aspectual meaning of
the suffixes and the four periphrastic constructions based on the semantic
values of the verbs they co-occur with in the Man'yōshū. Third, I integrate
these findings into the overall synchronic tense-aspect system of Old
Japanese. I propose that Old Japanese had a perfective-imperfective
distinction in both past and non-past tenses. Perfective was marked by –tu
and –nu, which were subject to a syntactic auxiliary selection constraint,
while present imperfective was marked by –(ye)ri and past imperfective by
–kyeri. Additionally, –tari and the periphrastics indicated specific
aspectual meanings: resultative and progressive. I then compare this
synchronic system with the tense-aspect systems of well-attested languages
in order to confirm the typological plausibility of the proposed system.
Lastly, I examine data from Early Modern Japanese using Genji Monogatari
and compare the results with the Old Japanese data. The diachronic change
from Old Japanese to Early Modern Japanese provides further support for my
synchronic analysis of Old Japanese.