Functional variety of the particle shi in Japanese conversation with particular reference to Kansai dialects : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Japanese at Massey University, Palmerston North

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Conjunctions in Japanese are usually described as a class of particles which function to link clauses. Recently many so-called conjunctions can be found at sentence-final position exhibiting characteristics similar to those of a sentence-final particle. Sentence-final particles in Japanese are a type of particle used at utterance-final position, and indicate a speaker‟s attitude, emotions, feelings or strategy reflecting the speaker‟s stance towards the content of the information being uttered. In other words, they exhibit a variety of discourse-pragmatic functions. The focus of this study has been to examine the conjunction shi at sentence-final position in naturally occurring conversations observing any functional change/shift away from the traditional usage with particular reference to Kansai dialects. The use of sentence-final shi in informal Japanese dialogue was assessed by collecting examples which occurred in conversations of native speakers. These provided data from a cross-section of people, ages, predominantly residing in the Kansai area. The data was analysed according to a number of criteria including the response of the interlocutor, the extent inference is necessary to understand the intended message, and the pragmatic effects caused by sentence-final shi. This study establishes that there is an emergence of a new usage of shi in Japan from the traditional conjunction (clause linking particle) to that of a sentence-final particle. The traditional usage has not disappeared but coexists with the new usage. Previous studies have suggested sentence-final shi is associated with a negative tone; while for the most part, shi at sentence-final position expresses the speaker‟s observation with a negative stance, there are times observed in this study when shi is used in ways that do not necessarily express the speaker‟s negative view. This represents a significant new finding of the study. The observations made in this study are based on Kansai dialects, and whether they are true of standard Japanese is beyond the scope of this study.
Japanese language, Japanese conjunctions, Japanese particles, Japanese grammar, Kansai dialect, Conversational Japanese