The Comprehensive Study of Japanese Response Markers on the basis of a Knowledge Model

Satoshi KINSUI and Toshiyuki SADANOBU

Faculty of Letters, Kobe University
Nada-ku, Hyogo, 657, JAPAN

We examine the discourse management function of Japanese Response Markers -- interjections, sentence-final particles, yes-no words etc. -- which have been so far regarded as noises for the spoken dialogue processing. For this purpose, we posit a cognitive interface between language and knowledge-base. This interface contains pointers or indices which control the access paths to the knowledge-base and the temporary memory-base set up for each dialogue session. Utterances in a dialogue can be seen as instructions for operations on this interface: registering, searching, copying, and inferring. We examine the nature of these operations by analyzing various discourse particles and interjections, which, we claim, work as mental monitoring devices for these operations. Furthermore we hypothesize that in the memory-base there are two domains, direct experience domain (D-domain), which is linked to the long term memory and indirect experience domain (I-domain), which is linked to the working area set up for the purpose of each discourse. Information presented in a discourse is distributed in the appropriate domains. The properties of the two domains are summarized below:

  • D-domain (linked to long term memory)
    :direct (assimilated, digested) information obtained by direct experience and past experience are stored
    :directly accessible
  • I-domain (linked to the working area)
    :indirect (not yet assimilated, digested) information obtained by hearsay, inference, hypothetical information are stored
    :only indirectly accessible

    We will call linguistic forms which set elements into the D-domain the direct forms, and those which set them into the I-domain the indirect form.
    The distinction between directly acquired information and indirectly acquired information is part of a more general distinction in Japanese, namely, the information already processed and incorporated in the memory or belief system and the information still being processed. Thus the information in the sentence (ia) with the modal showing how the information is acquired can be assimilated in the memory base and can some time later be reported by the direct form (ib).

    (ia). kare wa kekkon-siteiru sooda. (I hear he is married.)
    (ib). kare wa kekkon-siteiru. (He is married.)

    While, Takubo(1992) said that sentence-final particle YO can be seen as the instructions to register the information into I-domain.
    In Takubo(1984,1989a,1990), it is argued that the same distinction is at work in the behavior of proper nouns and the third person pronouns in Japanese. Proper nouns, the third person pronouns (KARE,KANOJO,KARERA) and KO/A-series of demonstratives are considered direct forms, while proper nouns and SO-series of demonstratives are considered indirect forms generally.
    Then, the following problems arise.

  • Is there a parallelism between indirect forms of NPs and those of sentences?
  • How do modals differ from YO as the indirect forms of sentences ?

    To solve these problems we distinguish two types of indirect forms functionally. The one is used to show the hearer that the path through which the speaker has accessed the date is indirect (type I), and the other is used to show the date is a new information for the hearer (type II). Though we cannot find morphological difference between type I and type II in NPs, we must use different sentence-final forms when the sentential informations are indirect. Namely, modals correspond type I and sentence-final particle YO corresponds type II.

    Keywords: discourse management, sentence-final particles, D-domain, I-domain modals