Query: speaker's irresponsible marker

Hideaki Sugai jpshs at NUS.EDU.SG
Wed Apr 8 05:59:05 UTC 1998

Dear members of ALT,

My query is kind of a long one which has two parts:
(1) About a marker which marks the speaker's irresponsibility to
evaluate the truth of what s/he said and which converts a presupposition
into an assertion.  A grammatical description in Japanese.  Query about
this phenomenon in Mandarin, Indonesian or other languages.

(2) About the terminology required for describing this phenomena (in
pragmatics and discourse analysis)

If you think these topics are not relevant to your field, please ignore
this query (I am afraid this query will take too much of your time).

Part 1
In Japanese, there is an interesting sentence final particle, _no_ "of".
There have been a number of previous studies that indicated that the
sentence with this marker is kind of a presupposition and cannot be
challenged by the hearer.  The followings are some examples.  _n_ is a
variation of _no_.  desu "be" or desuka is a copula which appears with

(1) Soko o hidarini magaru to, biru ga aru (_n=no_ desu)
	"There is a building after you turn left"
(2) ame ga hutteiru (_n_ desuka)?
     	"Is it raining outside?"
(3) chikkyuu ha marui (_n_ desu)
	"The earth is round"
(4) Nihonjin wa hashi de gohan o taberu (_n_ desu)
	"Japanese uses chopsticks when they eat."
(5) A: Do no hito ga sukina (-no-)?
	 "Which guy do you like?"
    B: jitsuha... Yoshida san (na _n_) desu
	"Actually...I like Mr Yoshida"

In (1), the speaker is giving an instruction to a person who is not
familiar with the area.  The speaker of course knows the area well, so
he is describing the way using his knowledge of the area.  (2) is said
when a visitor comes to your room and his clothes are all wet.  This may
be interpreted as a question asking how or why the visitor got wet.  (3)
This is an absolute truth, in other words, a presupposition.  (4) is
true among a cultural group.  (5) is shared information where Mr Yoshida
is known to both the speaker and the hearer.
	All information contained in the above sentences fit Givon's
(1984) uncontested knowledge.  Therefore Iwasaki (1985) and Cook (1990)
concluded that sentences marked by _no_ are unchallengeable.
	I noticed that the above sentences are unchallengeable not when
there is a _no_ marker but rather when there isn't a  _no_ marker.
After _no_ is attached, the sentence invites the hearer to challenge or
evaluate the truth of the _no_ sentence.
(1b) A: soko wo migini magaru to biru ga arundesu
	"There is a building after you turn left there"
      B: hontou desuka, sakki ikimashitaga, arimasendeshita yo
	"Really?  I went there just now, but I didn't see such a

(3b) A: chikyuu wa marui _n_ desu
	"The earth is round"
     B: Iya, boku ha shikakui to omou kedo?
	"Well, I think it's a square"

	Therefore it seems that the function of _no_ is to cancel the
truth of the uncontested knowledge=presupposition and convert it to an
assertion whose truth is uncertain.  Usually, the speaker is responsible
for the truth of the uncontested knowledge and the hearer should have
minimum responsibility for the evaluation of such information.  But if
the speaker wants to be irresponsible for what he has said, he can mark
his uncontested knowledge-in-disguise with this marker so that the
hearer knows that it's his turn to evaluate the truth.
	I did a text count of the types of hearer's response in Japanese
fiction.  The results show that the hearer indeed frequently disagrees
with the speaker or ignores what the speaker has said.  Therefore my
assumption that _no_ cancels the truth of uncontested knowledge seems to
be on the right track.
	Now, my first query is, do you know of any other languages which
have such a marker?  In Mandarin, there is an exact parallel structure
'shi...de' "be...of".  But it seems that most of the above examples
cannot be expressed with "shi..de".  There is one example where this can
be used.

(7) 	Mother: Shi shei chi le ping xiang li de ciao ke li?
		"Who ate the chocolate in the refrigerator?"
	Children: Shi John chi de.
		"It was John who ate it."

In this situation, the mother knows that the children should be able to
tell her who ate the chocolate.  This resembles the example (2) where
the speaker assumes that the hearer should be able to tell whether it's
raining outside.  But my colleague told me that (2) is not possible in
	There is again a parallel structure in Indonesian: the genetive
"nya".  I'msorry that I cannot write an exact sentence but one sentence
I saw in a grammar book is:
(8)	A: Didn't you go to a bank just now?
	B: Well, I went there, but it was closed (nya).
Again this looks like (2) or (7).  But I don't have much access to
Indonesian so I wonder whether other sentences can be said with "nya".
Would you let me know if you happen to know this structure in Mandarin,
Indonesian or any other language?  For your reference the Japanese _no_
is usually translated as  English "you know" or cleft construction "It
is John who ate it!".  I am interested in a. What kind of reply will be
given by the hearer (argument, ignorance, agreement etc), and b. whether
this kind of function is delivered with either a combination of "be" and
"of" or just one of them.

Part II
	This is a query of the terminology regarding the above topic.
In the text count of _the types_ of hearer's response, I found out that
the hearer who hears a _no_ sentence will challenge against, agree with,
comment on, or ignore the _no_ sentence.  My problem is that I am not
sure whether _the _types_ of hearer's response can be described as
_speech acts_ in hearer's reply.  Although I can translate some types of
responses into some popular types of speech acts such as "declarative",
I don't see a good classification of speech acts which includes
"avoiding or ignoring what the hearer has heard"  Is there any problem
in describing "agreement, ignoring, augment" as speech acts?  Is there
any better term to call the _types_ of hearer's reply?

I will post the results after I gather the comments and suggestions.
Thank you very much for reading this long query.

Hideaki SUGAI
Japanese Studies
National University of Singapore
phone: [65]- 874-7850


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