Historical Changes in Japanese: Subjectivity and intersubjectivity
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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Grammaticalization of modal markers has long been thought of in terms of change from deontic to epistemic meaning. This change, then, is typically thought of as a mapping between conceptual domains. Contrary to this perception, I argue in this paper that (1) change from deontic to epistemic (that is, the acquisition of epistemic meaning by deontic markers), although salient in many European languages, is cross-linguistically a marginal tendency, (2), the cross-linguistically most salient tendency in the development of modal markers is towards greater speaker-orientation, and (3), this change can best be explained by primarily referring to pragmatic processes, rather than conceptual processes. I substantiate my claims by analyzing the cross-linguistic modality data in Bybee et al. (1994), by providing a catalogue of etymologies of Modern Japanese modal markers, and by analyzing the polysemy and semantic change of one specific marker in Japanese language history (-be-si) in detail.


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