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Text & Talk

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Japanese, Language Acquisition, Narration


This paper compares two Japanese conditional constructions — tara and to — used as nonconditionals for narrative effect in spoken and written narratives collected from five native speakers of Japanese. These two constructions connect clauses where two unrelated past events happened in sequence as in: Miru to/Mitara, ame datta ‘When I looked, it was raining’. Examination of the spoken and written narratives revealed that tara is predominantly used in the spoken narratives while to is favored in the written narratives. Although both constructions are similar in the unexpected effect, the reason why the teller uses them differently can be attributed to the nature of the two different communicative modes. The teller in spoken narrative uses tara to intensify the heightened suspension whereby s/ he creates the surprising effect. The speaker-teller exploits the situatedness of the listener’s co-presence and recreates a story in the way the listener can share suspenseful moments and a sense of uncontrollability. The teller, when writing, uses the to construction to issue a narrator’s voice, "Look what happened." The writer takes the omniscient narrator’s viewpoint and directs the reader to an unexpected result even when the writer is absent.


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