A Distributed Morphology-Based Study on Verb Derivation in Japanese

Wenchao Li


This study uncovers Japanese verb derivation based upon the approach ‘distributed morphology’, conveying three ways of deriving a transitive (vt) or an intransitive verb (vi) in Japanese: (a) derived from the same adjective stem; (b) adding a morpheme that indicates vt or vi properties to a stem; and (c) verbalising a loanword or a Japanese-originated lexicon. In terms of deriving vt and vi from the same adjective stem, there is a semantic compositionality between the stem and the later added morphemes. Syntactically, the category of the derived vt and vi is established after the merger. In the second method of verb derivation, four pairs of vt/vi morphemes are confirmed: ‘-ø- (-u)’; ‘-e-’/ ‘-ar-’; ‘-ø-(-u)’ / ‘-e-’; ‘-ø-(-u)’; ‘-os-(-osu)’; ‘-as-(-asu)’ / ‘-i-’; ‘-as-(-asu)’; ‘-s- (-su)’ / ‘-e-’. Furthermore, three verbalisers, ‘る’, ‘する’ and aspect ‘ってる’, participate in the third type of verbalisation and, most essentially, the category of the base is not limited to nouns, but extends to mimetics and phrases. A proposal to treat these variations is put forward: the syntactic category of Japanese vt and vi are not predetermined. Verb derivation is a completely syntactic operation. The derivations, however, split into two paths: the process by which vt and vi derive from the same adjective stem is a case of ‘word-derivation’, and the process by which a verb is derived by adding a morpheme that indicates vt or vi properties to a stem and verbalising a loanword or a Japanese-originated lexicon is a manipulation of ‘root-derivation’. 

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v9i5.11769

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