From less personal to more personal: Subjectification of <i>ni</i>-marked NPs in Japanese discourse

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The Japanese <i>ni </i>is a postpositional particle, known for its wide range of semantic and grammatical roles such as a marker of locations, directions, recipients, and dative subjects. Based on an examination of pre-modern and modern Japanese texts, this study documents how the most basic meaning/usage of <i>ni</i>-marked NPs to mark stative locations has attained more subjective meaning/usage over the course of history. As discussed in Heine (1997), the transition from one stage to another is gradual, involving each new stage coexisting with the prior stages. These overlaps create ambiguity in structure and meaning. The study shows the importance of diachronic perspectives to help us better understand the ways in which semantic and pragmatic changes are represented synchronically.


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