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Review of  A Systemic Functional Grammar of Japanese

Reviewer: Heiko Narrog
Book Title: A Systemic Functional Grammar of Japanese
Book Author: Kazuhiro Teruya
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Japanese
Issue Number: 19.606

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AUTHOR: Teruya, Kazuhiro
TITLE: A Systemic Functional Grammar of Japanese
PUBLISHER: Continuum
YEAR: 2006

Heiko Narrog, Tohoku University, Japan

This book, which comes in two volumes, is a demonstration of how Systemic
Functional Grammar, a theoretical framework developed by M.A.K. Halliday and his
followers, can be applied to the Japanese language.

Volume I is comprised of four chapters. The first chapter (1-25) ''Language as a
semiotic system'' introduces fundamental concepts of Systemic Functional Grammar
(SFG). As the title says, SFG regards language as a semiotic system, that is, a
system to convey meaning. The system is instantiated by texts, which are,
accordingly, the basis for linguistic analysis. Furthermore, SFG regards grammar
and the lexicon as an inseparable continuum, as lexicogrammar. Lexicogrammar is
one of four strata of language, the others being semantics, phonology, and
phonetics. These strata are put into service of the three metafunctions of
language, which are ideational, interpersonal and textual.

Chapter 2 (26-70) provides an ''overview of the resources of Japanese
lexicogrammar''. While chapter 1 was an introduction to SFG in general, chapter 2
is an introduction to the following chapters (that is, the rest of the book). It
demonstrates ranked constituency (clause, group/phrase, word, and morpheme
level) in Japanese, gives a table for Japanese word classes, and then discusses
the expression of ideational, interpersonal and textual function in this
language with examples. Finally, the concept of ''subject'' is scrutinized. The
author suggests that ''subject'' in Japanese is an interpersonal category, and
that it cannot be nailed down to nominative (ga) or topic (wa) marking.

Chapter 3 (71-134) deals with the ''textual grammar of Japanese''. The most
prominent keyword in this chapter is that of ''theme'', a concept broader than
usual in linguistics, extending to sentence-initial adverbs and conjunctions
which set the scene for a sentence. The discussion proceeds from simple to
complex clauses, to whole texts, relating the system of theme to that of
''information'', which has the binary values ''given'' or ''new'' (''theme'' does not
necessarily overlap with ''given'').

Chapter 4 (135-223) discusses the ''interpersonal grammar'' of Japanese.
Interpersonal functions in Japanese are usually coded in the extended predicate
phrase (the ''predicator'') with its final particles (the ''negotiator''). The most
important categories that relate to interpersonal functions are those of mood,
modality, and evidentiality. Moods, such as indicative mood, imperative mood,
and optative mood are discussed at some length with many examples and tables.

Finally, chapters 5 (225-328) and 6 (329-456), which constitute the second
volume of the set, deal with the ideational grammar of Japanese, namely
experiential systems (chapter 5) and logical systems (chapter 6). Experiential
systems are in principle concerned with predicates and their argument structure.
Teruya distinguishes four domains of experience, namely verbal clauses
(typically with verbs of saying), mental clauses (typically with verbs of
cognition, perception, desideration, intention and emotion), relational clauses
(typically with adjectival and nominal predicates that express an attribution or
identification), and material clauses, which express some doing or happening.
The logical systems (chapter 6) are concerned with the linking between clauses,
such as hypotaxis and parataxis in complex sentences, and the linking of clauses
to discourse. Here we find descriptions and taxonomies of temporal, conditional,
additive, causal and other clause types in Japanese. After this, the references
follow, and an index. Unfortunately, the index does not include reference to
Japanese morphemes or constructions, but only to authors and linguistic terms,
and the latter only very selectively.

SFG has been overwhelmingly applied to the description of the English language,
and many of its features seem to be intricately bound to the peculiarities of
English language structure (Halliday also had profound knowledge of Chinese,
which is, however, in crucial respects a language structurally similar to
English). Thus, Teruyo undertook a formidable intellectual challenge in applying
the theory to a language which is not only genetically unrelated but also
structurally very different. No substantial description of Japanese in SFG
existed before. In my view, he fully succeeds in his challenge. He manages to
transfer the concepts of SFG to Japanese without slavishly following the model
of English, but suggests many areas where Japanese has to be analyzed
differently. This book will doubtlessly be a guideline for all future
researchers who might follow Teruya in taking a SFG approach to Japanese.

Another question is how non-adherents of SFG will relate to this book. Some
readers might expect this to be a general grammatical description of Japanese on
a par with other grammars such as Martin (1975) or Hinds (1986). It is
definitely not. As stated in the introduction to this review, it is a
demonstration how SFG can be applied to Japanese. SFG presupposes a considerable
theoretical apparatus, the explanation of which takes up a fair amount of space.
Therefore, the actual description of Japanese is exemplatory rather than
exhaustive. Also, the descriptions and analyses given in this book are by no
means easily digestible for readers who have not been previously familiar with
this theory. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that if someone is willing to spend
enough time to familiarize himself/herself with the terminology and the concepts
on which this book is based, she/he will find Teruya to be stimulating reading.
In particular, descriptions of core grammar of Japanese abound, but the
relationship to text, for example, is still under-explored, and Teruya comes up
with a comprehensive system that extends from word to discourse.

However, this book will not make everybody happy. The approach taken by Teruya,
and by Halliday and in SFG in general is peculiar in that no testable hypotheses
are provided and in that generally no discussions or justifications for analyses
are given. The writer so to speak takes the position of being omniscient, and it
usually remains obscure how analyses were arrived at. Numerous tables and
overviews are provided but almost never a discussion is given why a particular
item is included or not. Does, for instance, Japanese really have pronouns (cf.
p. 34)? Many grammarians believe that it doesn't (in that view, it only has
semantic equivalents of English pronouns which morphosyntactically behave like
ordinary nouns). How would these parts of speech be defined? Why is the
adjectival suffix –tai, which is fully inflectable for tense etc. and in
Japanese grammar is usually regarded as part of the propositional contents,
characterized as a ''mood'' (optative mood) on a par with otherwise sentence-final
mood inflections such as the imperative (p. 192)? The reader will search in vain
for any arguments or for an elucidation of the procedures through which the
author came to his conclusions. In keeping with this, the references cited by
the author are mainly limited to SFG and a specific group of scholars within
Japanese linguistics (the Gengogaku Kenkyukai around Okuda/Suzuki), pointing to
the possibility that major parts of Japanese linguistic research were a priori
excluded from consideration. Data-wise, it is made clear that the author worked
with a corpus of electronic texts, but in contrast to Biber et al. (1999), for
example, the corpus data are nowhere presented transparently.

There are also some serious drawbacks concerning editorial decisions. Perhaps
the biggest is that no detailed table of contents is provided. This
significantly hampers the usability of a book with so many subdivisions, which
is unfortunate, because contents-wise the book is not easily accessible to
potential readers as well. Thus, chapter 6, for example, comprises about 130
pages with numerous subsections but the table of contents gives only the three
biggest subdivisions, which are rather abstract. In combination with the less
than exhaustive index this makes the book very difficult to orient in. The
reader is forced to read through it and does not have the option to use it as a
reference work. The second big drawback is that for whatever reason, unlike
Hinds (1986) or Iwasaki (2002), for example, Japanese sentences come without
morpheme glosses. This practically excludes everyone from the readership who is
not proficient in Japanese. Instead of morpheme glosses, the Japanese characters
are provided, which is in my view rather superfluous, because those who are
proficient in Japanese can easily reconstruct them, and those who aren't cannot
read them anyway. A third problem, that is less serious for the purpose of the
book, is that while the focus from word to discourse, morpheme analysis seems to
be almost completely random. Thus particles are variously fused with preceding
and following morphemes/lexemes or written separately. In any case, it is to be
seriously hoped that if this book will see a second edition, the problems with
the table of contents, the index, and the lack of morpheme glosses will be
addressed, and that Teruya's book will become more accessible to a wider
readership. It is also hard to understand why a book of ''only'' 487 pages must
come in two volumes, which presumably leads to higher production costs and a
higher price of the book.

Despite these drawbacks, at the end of the day it is undeniable that with this
book Teruya has laid the foundation for further research on Japanese within the
framework of Systemic Functional Grammar. This is no mean achievement.

Biber, Douglas et al. (1999). _Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English_.
London: Longman.

Hinds, John. (1986). _Japanese_. London: Croom Helm.

Iwasaki, Shoichi. (2002). _Japanese_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Martin, Samuel E. (1975). _A Reference Grammar of Japanese_. New Haven: Yale
University Press.

Heiko Narrog is an associate professor at Tohoku University, Japan. His research
interests include historical linguistics, syntax and semantics, modality,
linguistic typology, and the Japanese language.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0826455239
ISBN-13: 9780826455239
Pages: 336
Prices: U.K. £ 150.00