Generation of Temporal Deictic Expressions in Japanese and English Dialogues

Shigeru SATO, Hajime FUKUCHI, and Kan'iti ITAGAKI

Graduate Schools of Intercultural Studies and Information Sciences, Tohoku University
Aoba-ku, Sendai 980-77, JAPAN

The dialogue is the basic mode in the use of language in which a common pragmatic field of cognition is assumed between the speaker and the hearer. For it to take place, mutual understanding of spatiotemporal deixis is indispensable, where the default values in the speaker are "me-now-here". Clarification of the nature of the constraints imposed on such a field and of the departure from these values directly contributes to the understanding of dialogue construction. For instance, we are interested in the time-space where the following pairs of expressions are generated with contrastive tense markers: "Arigatou gozaimasu/gozaimasita." and "It's nice to meet you./It was nice meeting you." What is it that motivates the choice of these tense expressions? With our final goal in mind to construct a model of temporal deixis generation, we report here the results of the following two subgoals: [1] Occurrence of case particle "ni" attached to time nouns, and [2] Functions of tense markers in scene-depicting text.

In [1] we have found the following. Particle "ni" does not co-occur with proximal deictic expressions, nor with absolute expressions used to replace proximal deixis. Proximity to "now" brings about the sense of temporal duration, which seems to prevent the occurrence of "ni". We have also seen some cases where "ni" is suppressed even in non-deictic context if duration is implied by that expression. Thus, the direct cause of "ni" suppression is not the relativity of the time noun, but the sense of duration it embodies. A natural agreement between the speaker and the hearer is that explicit forms take shape in a dialogue only when they find it difficult to identify what the other side has brought up. Thinking that the occurrence of "ni" may also be affected by this principle, we attempt to further this topic, making use of the notion of iconic motivation in cognitive linguistics that relates linguistic expressions to the world of concept.

[2] investigates cognitive functions the Japanese tense markers bear in simplex sentences in scene-depicting text. The predicate classes are defined as the action, transition, and state predicates, where, within a certain span of time in the past, the first and second are time-dependent, and the last time-invariant. After an analysis of the text by various contemporary writers, the findings are that the combination of action/transition predicates and the past tense marker creates a time flow by activating scenes. In the mean time, spatial elaboration is taken care of by state predicates using both the present and past tense markers. While the present tense as a whole renders spatial description of the scene activated by the past tense of the preceding action/transition predicate, the state predicate plus a past tense marker seems to signal the change in the focus of attention in the situation in the particular time frame.

Keywords: time noun, tense marker, proximal deixis, action / transition / state predicates