Investigating the transitive and intransitive constructions in English and Japanese: A quantitative study

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Abstract

Previous research has suggested that languages differ in terms of how much prominence is given to the agent. Namely, English prefers to give prominence to a human agent, whereas Japanese prefers to suppress the human agent and express events as if they happen spontaneously (e.g., Ikegami 1981). By using a Japanese novel and its English translation as a parallel corpus, this paper shows quantitatively that Japanese uses more intransitive constructions than English. Using Hopper & Thompson’s (1980) parameters to measure semantic transitivity, this paper also shows that the difference in intransitive constructions was only observed in low semantic transitivity events, whereas both languages exhibit similar trends for high semantic transitivity events. An analysis under the framework of Construction Grammar suggests that the Japanese intransitive construction covers a space in a semantic map which would be occupied by the transitive and adjectival constructions in English. Copyright © 2014 John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)752-791
JournalStudies in Language
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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Semantics
semantics
event
Hoppers
language
grammar
Transitive
Transitivity
Quantitative Study
Intransitive
trend
Language
English Translation
Construction Grammar
Semantic Map
Parallel Corpora

Citation

Luk, Z. P.-s. (2014). Investigating the transitive and intransitive constructions in English and Japanese: A quantitative study. Studies in Language, 38(4), 752-791.

Keywords

  • Construction grammar
  • English
  • Frequency
  • Japanese
  • Intransitive
  • Transitive