Diachrony, Synchrony, and Typology of Tense and Aspect in Old Japanese reconstructs the synchronic system of tense and aspect in Old Japanese, which until now had not been examined using the tools of contemporary linguistic theory. Kazuha Watanabe analyzes syntactic distribution of the temporal suffixes in the Man'yōshū, an eighth-century poetry collection, and compares the results with data from well-attested languages. The author then integrates the semantic property of each suffix into the overall synchronic tense-aspect system of Old Japanese. Watanabe further compares the reconstructed system with the distributions of the same suffixes in Early Modern Japanese using Genji Monogatari, an eleventh-century novel, in order to provide further support for the synchronic analysis of Old Japanese. This approach is fundamentally different from traditional analyses, which identify the meanings of the temporal suffixes based on contextual information. In addition, previous analyses have produced a uniform analysis covering the entire 700-year period from Old to Early Modern Japanese. Instead, Watanabe proposes that Old Japanese had a temporal system distinct from the later period.
Kazuha Watanabe is associate professor and coordinator of the Japanese program in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at California State University, Fullerton.
Chapter 1: Tense and Aspect
Chapter 2: –(ye)ri, –kyeri, and –ki
Chapter 3: –tu and –nu
Chapter 4: –tari and other emerging markers
Chapter 5: Beyond the Man’yōshū
About the Author
"To carry out her study on early Japanese poetic texts (the Man’yōshū), Dr. Watanabe had to immerse herself in traditional scholarship and then clear away some systematic misreadings by earlier scholars, supporting her emendations, inter alia, by the syllable count of the verse form (5-7-5 and the like). Sifting the apparent meanings and non-linguistic contexts of the verses poem by poem, she argues that traditional views of the past-tense system (four perfects, two different pasts) did not hold water as a description, in addition to being unparalleled elsewhere in the world. Her conclusions give early Japanese a much more believable and familiar-looking system of morphological markers for aspects and tenses, not so divergent from modern Romance languages, and enable her to trace a reasonable path of historical development to later Japanese and even to the present-day system."