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The tense system of predicate nominal sentences with a human-denoting subject

  • 日本硏究
  • 2018, (48), pp.31-48
  • DOI : 10.20404/jscau.2018.02.48.31
  • Publisher : The Center for Japanese Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Japanese Language and Literature
  • Received : December 28, 2017
  • Accepted : January 31, 2018
  • Published : February 20, 2018

Chang, Hee-ju 1

1한국외국어대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In order to investigate the tense system of predicate nominal sentences with a human-denoting subject, I collected relevant example sentences from conversational sentences in contemporary Japanese novels. I also divide the collected sentences into those denoting an individual subject and those denoting a generic subject. I further provide the three-way classification of sentences denoting individual subjects in terms of whether they may be concurrent with expressions of past tense. These classifications reveal the tense system of each type of sentence. Firstly, when a subject denotes an individual subject, a sentence describing a constant characteristic of the individual denoted uses a past tense form to express the inexistence of the individual. If the individual is existent, however, the use of past tense is disallowed, and only the non-past form is used. Secondly, a sentence describing a variable characteristic of the individual denoted may be concurrent with the past tense form and it also allows the use of temporal expressions for past tense. In connection with this, I also observe that the use of the past tense form expresses that the relevant characteristic is no longer existent (i.e. a change of the individual or the inexistence of the individual), while the use of the non-past tense form describes the present characteristics of the individual. Finally, a sentence denoting a temporal phenomenon is compatible with temporal expressions for past, and the use of the past tense form points to the pre-utterance time at which the event in question occurred, while the use of the non-past tense form describes the present event. On the other hand, in the case of generic subjects, most of the collected sentences describe judgments based on the speaker’s thoughts, and the non-past tense form tends to be used. For the groups which are currently inexistent, however, the use of the past tense form is licensed, which implicates that the groups in question are no longer existent

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