Nanri, Keizo
Department of Asian Studies
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Western Sydney, Nepean, Australia

Keizo Nanri
38A Meryla Street
Burwood, NSW 2134

Strand: lexicogrammar other

Title: Where Can We Find Theme in Japanese?

In English Subject occupies a certain predictable position in the sentence, whereas in Japanese Subject may not appear in the sentence, and even when it appears, it can appear anywhere before the process of the sentence. This makes theme analysis a very difficult task in Japanese, since the location of Japanese Subject cannot be used to find which segment of the sentence is thematized. Further, even if a Subject can be located, the moment the sentence is attached to (the right-hand side of) a noun, the Subject becomes a part of a rank-shifted sentence, in which case, the grammatical entities judged as functioning as theme(s) may be disqualified from theme analysis.

It has often been argued that particle 'wa' is the thematizer in Japanese, as a solution to the above-noted situation. But this is questionable, becuase one can find texts in which 'wa' is not employed at all. This could mean that some Japanese texts do not contain themes at all, if 'wa' were the thematizer. This does not sound right.

In this paper, I will attempt to find some solutions to the above-noted situation, by taking a syntactic and topological viewpoint, and argue that (1) the initial segment of the sentence should be regarded as theme in both English and Japanese in principle, and (2) the strict notion of consituency adopted by systemic functional theory (SFT) should be relaxed. I will argue these so that Japanese textual grammar becomes accessible through SFT.