Modal Markers in Japanese: A Study of Learners’ Use before and after Study Abroad

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Kizu, Mika ; Pizziconi, Barbara ; Iwasaki, Noriko
  • Subject: 8650 | 3100 | 2052

Japanese discourse requires speakers to index, in a relatively explicit manner, their stance toward the propositional information as well as the hearer. This is done, among other things, by means of a grammaticalized set of modal markers. Although previous research suggests that the use of modal expressions by second language learners differs from that of native users, little is known about “typical” native or non-native behavior. This study aims (a) to delineate native and non-native usage by a quantitative examination of a broad range of Japanese modal categories, and qualitative analyses of a subset of potentially problematic categories among them, and (b) to identify possible developmental trajectories, by means of a longitudinal observation of learners’ verbal production before and after study abroad in Japan. We find that modal categories realized by non- transparent or non-salient markers (e.g., explanatory modality no da, or utterance modality sentence-final particles) pose particular challenges in spite of their relatively high availability in the input, and we discuss this finding in terms of processing constraints that arguably affect learners’ acquisition of the grammaticalized modal markers.
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