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A usage-based approach to early-discourse pragmatic functions of the Japanese subject markers wa and ga*

  • MARIKO UNO (a1)


This study investigates the emergence and development of the discourse-pragmatic functions of the Japanese subject markers wa and ga from a usage-based perspective (Tomasello, 2000). The use of each marker in longitudinal speech data for four Japanese children from 1;0 to 3;1 and their parents available in the CHILDES database (MacWhinney, 2000) was coded and analyzed. Findings showed that the four children initially used wa as a wh-question marker. They then gradually shifted its use to convey the proposition of given information. In contrast, the use of ga varied among the children. One child used ga with dynamic verbs in the past tense to report events he witnessed/experienced, while the other three children used it with a particular stative predicate in the present tense, expressing their subjective feeling toward referents. Findings were explained by the frequency of input to which the children had been exposed.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence:Georgetown University – Linguistics, 1421 37th Street NW, Poulton Hall 240, Box 571051, Washington, District of Columbia 20057-1051United States. e-mail:


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I would like to thank Lourdes Ortega for her very constructive comments on the draft of this manuscript. I would also like to thank anonymous reviewers and editors of the Journal of Child Language for their insightful comments. My thanks also go to Rusan Chen and John Norris for their invaluable advice on statistical analysis. I would like to thank Peter Howell for his helpful comments on a final draft of the manuscript. Lastly, I would like to thank Kyoko Teraoka Sakamoto and Deng Ying for their helpful discussion on this project.



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A usage-based approach to early-discourse pragmatic functions of the Japanese subject markers wa and ga*

  • MARIKO UNO (a1)


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