Number and Mood

Hideaki Sugai jpshs at NUS.EDU.SG
Wed Apr 22 04:32:38 UTC 1998

In Japanese, a little amount (a little, or a few) is indicated by "-ka".

nani	-ka		doko	-ka		itsu	-ka
what			where			when
"something"		"somewhere"		"someday, sometime"

ikutsku		-ka
how many

This -ka is interestingly phonetically indentical to a complementizer
(well, let's say it's a marker) that introduces a modal verb of
certainty such as "shiru" 'to know' or "wakaru" 'to understand, to
identify or to know' as in (1)
(1) Tokyo	he	iku 	ka 	shirimasen
     Tokyo	to	go -ka  		don't know
"I don't know _whether_ (someone, not the speaker) goes to Tokyo"

What's more interesting is, in Japanese, there is a marker which
indicates "excess", which is usually contrasted to -ka.  The excess
marker is "mo" whose exact translation in English depends on the
predicate which follows this marker.  But usually this means "at all" or
"the amount more than one's expectation".
(2a)	nani	-mo 	(nai)		
	what		there isn't
	"There isn't anything "		
(2b)	doko	-mo (ikanai)		
	where		don't go		
	"I don't go anywhere"	

(2c)	itsu	-mo	tabeteru
	when		eat
	"I always/every time eat."

(2d)	ikutsku		-mo	aru
	how many		there is
	"There are too many things (more than I expected)"

Now, this "-mo" is again phonetically identical to a complementizer that
introduces an adjective of permission, comment or suggestion.  The
following sentence is used if one's primary intention is going to Osaka,
and the friend is suggesting that he should ALSO (as an excess of the
trip) visit Tokyo.

(3a)	Tokyo he ittemiru 	no 		-mo tanoshii 	desu
	Tokyo to  try to go 	Nominalizer	
fun		is
	"Going to Tokyo must be also fun"

Finally, -ka and -mo are combined in Japanese inviting a verb of
uncertainty as in (4).
(4)	Tokyo 	he	iku	-ka-mo shiremasen
	Tokyo	to	go		don't know
	"I think I may go to Tokyo"

The difference between (1) and (4) is significant (ignoring the
difference between wakarimasen/shirimasen which both mean "don't know").
In (1) the speaker is uncertain about one's trip, but (4) is more
positive about the speaker's trip , although the verb used is 'don't
know'.   In (4), the speaker is more likely inclining to go to Tokyo.
	These interesting markers are not found in English (or as far as
I know Chinese dialects), but isn't it logical that the markers for the
lack/excess of a noun is somehow related to the degree of
negative/positive attitude in one's certainty?

Hideaki SUGAI
Japanese Studies
National University of Singapore
> ----------
> From: 	am004 at RS1.RRZ.UNI-KOELN.DE[SMTP:am004 at RS1.RRZ.UNI-KOELN.
> DE]
> Reply To: 	am004 at RS1.RRZ.UNI-KOELN.DE
> Sent: 	1998”N4月22“?0:46
> Subject: 	Number and Mood
> Dear colleaques,
> for testing a rather weird hypothesis I would like to know if anybody
> has ever stumbled on some odd structural or phonological similarity
> between number markers (on nouns or verbs) and markers of modality
> (or is there at least some strict complementary distribution?).
> Thank you very much for your cooperation,
> Juergen Broschart
> ---
> Dr. Juergen Broschart
> Institut fuer Sprachwissenschaft
> Universitaet zu Koeln
> D-50923 Koeln
> am004 at
> Tel. 0221-470-2323
> Fax. 0221-470-5947
> ---

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