The Grammatical Voice in Japanese: A Typological Perspective

The Grammatical Voice in Japanese: A Typological Perspective

by Junichi Toyota




This monograph investigates how Japanese employs different structures found in the grammatical voice, both synchronically and diachronically. The Japanese voice system, especially the passive voice, has provided much interesting data for typological comparison, and Japanese examples are often cited in various linguistic works. However, the basic structure consisting of a suffix -(r)are is taken for granted as the passive voice, but it has not been thoroughly compared with various structures with similar functions in other languages. It is argued here that various typological comparisons can reveal different interpretations of structures often analysed under a term 'grammatical voice' in Japanese. The main argument proposed in this book is that the Japanese passive originates from an earlier middle voice structure. As the language evolved, the middle voice lost its core function and became more like the passive voice, leaving some residues of earlier middle voice structure even in Modern Japanese. This developmental path is typologically very common, but it has not been recognised in the history of Japanese. This will make the voice continuum in Japanese more complex, i.e. from a conventional active-passive binary pair to a newly proposed active-middle-passive ternary pair. Thus, the presence of the middle voice in Japanese can provide various solutions to questions that are previously considered in relation to the passive voice. The book starts off with a description of different structures normally discussed under the passive voice in Japanese, and five structures are presented here. Following this, both syntactic and semantic features of the Japanese voice system are discussed separately. These discussions will raise some oddities that are not dealt with satisfactorily in previous analysis, and these points are analysed in historical comparison. Apart from the basic description of five structures, certain grammatical features are studied by comparing Japanese data with similar structures and functions in other languages. In addition, there is a small amount of data used for indicating frequency of structures in the basic description.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781443833509
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Publication date: 11/01/2011
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Junichi Toyota is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University and a Visiting Professor of Linguistics and Japanese Studies, University of Belgrade. His research interests cover a wide range of disciplines, including linguistics, anthropology and cognitive science. His publications are mainly focused on historical linguistics and cognitive linguistics, but also deal with the evolution of human linguistic ability, including Diachronic Change in the English Passive (2008) and Kaleidoscopic Grammar (2009) and Sense of Emptiness: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (forthcoming).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements xi

List of Figures xiii

List of Tables xv

Abbreviations xvii

Chapter 1 Introduction 1


General overview of the voice system in Japanese

Various approaches to the Japanese passive

Different types of the passive

Uniform and non-uniform theory

Uniform theory

Non-uniform theory

Reflexive pronoun, zibun '-self

Uniqueness of the Japanese passive

Aim and method of the study

Organisation f the study

Chapter 2 Description of the Japanese Passive 11


General overview of the voice system in Japanese

Different types of the passive

Verbal passive

Adversative passive

Spontaneous passive

Potential passive

Honorific passive

Diversity in Japanese passive


Chapter 3 Morphosyntactic Characteristics 31



Valency-reducing operation

Valency-increasing operation

No valency alternation

Passivisability of verbs

Case marking


Chapter 4 Morphosemantic Characteristics 41


Animacy restriction


Topicalisation and passive


Extension of impersonalisation: honorific passive

Scope of negation

Semantics-syntax interface


Chapter 5 Diachronic Changes of Japanese Passive 59


Origin of Japanese passive

Chronological order of appearance

Various influences on historical changes

Alignment change and causation

Alignment change in Japanese


Chapter 6 Japanese Passive within Typology 79



Syntactic and semantic transitivity

Transitivity and valency

Impersonal passive with monovalent verbs

Transitivity and spontaneous passive

Actor in terms of transitivity

Actor markers in Japanese passive

Conceptual domain GOAL as actor marker


Chapter 7 Voice Continuum and Japanese Passive 113


Voice continuum

Prototype of passive voice

Middle voice

Relationship between passive and middle voice

Japanese passive in voice continuum

Middle voice in Japanese


Chapter 8 Conclusion 135

The Japanese passive

Further features

Historical origin and development

Middle voice and alignment change

Typological peculiarities

Future studies

Bibliography 143

Appendix I Spoken Data 151

Appendix II Written Data 181

Index of Languages 205

Index of Subjects 207

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