The semantic variability of the emphatic construction koso -e in Old Japanese
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There is an interesting emphatic construction (called a koso –e construction) in Old Japanese, in which the focus particle koso concords with the exclamatory (-e) sentence ending form. When koso focuses on an irrealis/subjunctive conditional clause, the overall sentence expresses a peculiar counterfactual-like conditional, which I call “rhetorical counterfactuals.” This interpretation is different from the standard counterfactual interpretation in that the speaker’s intention of stating a subjunctive conditional is a strong denial of the consequent. The strong denial of the consequent follows from the speaker’s belief that the proposition in the antecedent is inconceivable. The thesis addresses the problems concerning the truth conditions of counterfactuals with inconceivable antecedents. The problem is whether the rhetorical reading of subjunctive conditional can be assigned a non-vacuous truth by the truth conditions of counterfactuals. I argue that the rhetorical counterfactual expressed in koso –e has the truth conditions of only if counterfactuals; and the rhetorical/non-rhetorical readings are derived from the speaker’s assumption as to whether the closest world(s) in which the antecedent holds is/are among what the speaker considers conceivable in the context. The causal interpretation of koso –e is obtained when koso focuses on a realis conditional (i.e. –ba ‘whenever/when’) clause. Data suggest that conditional and causal interpretations of koso –e are morphologically distinct in the modal context. The thesis argues that the indicative subordinate clauses are semantically selected by epistemic/ evidential modals. In the non-modal context, I claim that both causal and conditional interpretations are variants of temporal subordinating conjunctions. To show that this is the case, I presented that not only –ba clauses but also other antecedent forms such as temporal adverbial clauses and gerundive clauses in koso –e exhibit the semantic variability of conditional/causal interpretations. The causal/conditional/temporal interpretations are inferred from the context, depending on whether the antecedent is true or not true with respect to the context.
- Linguistics