So-called "Particle Ellipsis"


Tokyo Woman's Christian University
Suginami-ku, Tokyo 167, JAPAN

In Japanese sentences, case particles such as 'ga' and 'wo' are sometimes missing. In this paper, we study so-called "particle ellipsis" from the following three points of view: 1)the determination of the case, 2)the function of the ellipsis, and 3)the difference between spoken and written languages.

{1) Determination of the case}
There have been several attempts to supply the missing case particles. However, identifying the most natural case particle does not necessarily mean the determination of the case for the omitted particle. In this paper, we try to build a process for identifying the proper case of the constituent for which the case particle is missing.
We use 8,000 spoken sentences taken from 86 dialogs. There are 582 occurrences of particle ellipsis whose head-word modifies a single verb. 454 modify the verb immediately follows the case element, while 128 of them have other elements in-between. If the case element modifies the immediately following verb, the omitted particle is 'wo' for the most of the time. More specifically, there are 214 examples of omission of 'wo', 155 for 'ga', 80 for 'ni', 4 for 'de', and 1 for 'to.'
When the valency pattern of the modified verb contains the 'wo' case, and when the sentence does not have an element explicitly signaled as the case 'wo,' it is most probable that the missing case is 'wo.' Next come cases that represent the destination of action, such as 'ni' and 'he' (we can confirm this when the head noun has the semantic feature 'locative').
Other than these, 'ga' or 'ni,' whichever closer the last element in the valency pattern of the modified verb, is most likely the missing case.
When the case element is distant from the predicate verb, the omitted particle is 'ga' for the most of the time. 'ga' accounts for 60 examples, 'wo' is 40, 'ni' is 13, 'de' is 3, and others are 12. 'Others' include cases that do not appear in valency patterns. When a noun is not strongly related to a predicate, it has more topical role and it is difficult to determine its case.

{2) Function of the ellipsis}
Sometimes particle ellipsis conveys more meaning than with particles. For example, case element without a particle may be considered to signify a topical role in a Japanese sentence. We discuss similarities and differences between the topical particle 'ha' and no mark. In particular, we study things that affect topicality - for example, the position in a sentence, the characteristics of the noun and the predicate, the function of the sentence, the pragmatic factors, and the phonetic features. We plan to study the function of ellipsis for other particles next year.

{3) Difference between spoken and written languages}
Case particle omission is observable in written languages as well. However, the usage and meaning may be somewhat different from spoken languages. A lot of studies have done on the written languages, but we intend to compare the use of case particle ellipsis between written and spoken languages. This is another issue in our plan next year.

Keywords: particle ellipsis, determination of case, valency, topic