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Grammatical Sketches of Japanese Dialects and Ryukyuan Languages
Volume Editor:
Japanese is definitely one of the best-known languages in typological literature. For example, typologists often assume that Japanese is a nominative-accusative language. However, it is often overlooked that Japanese, or more precisely, Tokyo Japanese, is just one of various local varieties of the Japonic language family (Japanese and Ryukyuan). In fact, the Japonic languages exhibit a surprising typological diversity. For example, some varieties display a split-intransitive as opposed to nominative-accusative system. The present volume is thus a unique attempt to explore the typological diversity of Japonic by providing a collection of grammatical sketches of various local varieties, four from Japanese dialects and five from Ryukyuan. Each grammatical sketch follows the same descriptive format, addressing a wide range of typological topics.
In: An Introduction to the Japonic Languages
In: An Introduction to the Japonic Languages


The present study is a cross-linguistic survey on the Double-Subject Construction (DSC) in East Asian languages. The DSC is a distinctive typological characteristic of East Asian languages, defined by the seeming coexistence of two subjects in the same clause, one of which generally acts as the main subject of the sentence and the other as the subject of the comment (for example, “As for elephants SBJ , their noses SBJ are long”). The possessive relationship between the two subjects, particularly alienability, has been claimed to play a crucial role in the DSC in numerous languages when evaluating the DSC (Modini, 1981, etc.).

The present study examined the DSC in three East-Asian minority languages and dialects, the Aragusuku dialect of Miyako Ryukyuan (Japonic), the Shiiba dialect (Japonic), and the She (pronounced as [ʂɤ55]) Speech (Sinitic), and has confirmed that alienability does play a role in the DSC of all languages. The fundamental duality of alienable vs. inalienable possession, on the other hand, proved to be problematic. Rather, it has been demonstrated that a finer differentiation of various types of alienability works better. The Possession Cline (Tsunoda, 1991; body part > attribute > clothing > kin > pet animal > product > others) is a valuable technique for assessing the DSC in all three lects. Our further contribution to the DSC and Possession Cline typology is that the position of the category product should be reassessed, because the constituents are not homogenous (for example, in Standard Japanese, zi, which is normally classed as product, should be considered attribute while expressing ‘handwriting’, but product when representing ‘calligraphy’.).

In: Language Endangerment and Obsolescence in East Asia