Kakari-Musubi — When a non-finite sentence is finite

In this post, I’d like to talk more generally about kakari-musubi (係り結び ‘binding’) constructions, which I’ll abbreviate KMCs.

So, first of all, a bit of a refresher as to what these phenomenon are. A prototypical KMC is one where a kakari particle (係助詞 kakari joshi) occurs, and where the matrix verbal of the sentence takes on a different marking than would otherwise be expected. Despite this definition, traditionally, the topic particle (=pa in Western Old Japanese) and the additive-scalar focus particle (=mö in Western Old Japanese) have also been considered kakari particles, despite the fact that they trigger the expected endings.

The following table summarizes the situation in Western Old Japanese:

[table class=”table table-striped”]
Particle, Meaning, Verb form
=pa, topic, FIN
=mö, additive-scalar (also/even) focus, FIN
=ya, polar (yes/no) question, ATTR
=ka, content (wh-) question, ATTR
=sö~=nzö, emphasis, ATTR
=namo, emphasis, ATTR
=kösö, strong emphasis, EV

We find a similar, though interestingly not the same situation in Okinawan. In particular, the two question markers behave quite differently than any of the other particles. I’ll deal with Okinawan in particular at a later date, but here a table equivalent to the one above for Okinawan:

[table class=”table table-striped”]
Particle, Meaning, Verb form
=ya, topic, FIN
=n, additive-scalar (also/even) focus, FIN
-i, polar (yes/no) question, FIN
=ga, content (wh-) question, TENT
=du, emphasis, ATTR

In all of these cases, we would generally expect the final form (or some non-finite form) of a verbal, rather than these alternative forms. Some examples:

(1) 庭尓敷流雪波知敝之久 (TOP + FIN)
NIPA-ni pur-u YUKÎ=pa ti-pê sik-u
garden-LOC fall-ATTR snow=TOP thousand-layer.CLF cover-FIN
‘The snow that falls on the garden covers [the ground] in many (lit. a thousand) layers.’ (MYS 17:3960)

(2) 奈尓乎可於母波牟 (CQ + ATTR)
nani-wo=ka omöp-am-u
what-ACC=CQ think-TENT-ATTR
‘What would [you] think?’ (MYS 17:3967)

(3) 安連曽久夜思伎 (EMPH + ATTR)
are=sö kuyasi-kî
I=EMPH be.regretable-ATTR
‘I am regrettable.’ (MYS 17:3939)

(4) 雪己曽波春日消良米 (EMPH + EV)
YUKÎ=kösö=pa PARU PÎ KIY-Uram
snow=EMPH=TOP spring day melt-NPST.TENT-EV
‘Snow melts [on] a spring day.’ (MYS 9:1782)

Note that transcriptions in ALLCAPS indicates semantographic, rather than syllabic writing. So the character 雪 YUKΠis used to mean ‘snow’ (it’s semantic value), rather than any syllabic value that might be associated with it. Compare this to 波 pa, which is used for its phonetic value, not its meaning, ‘wave’.

(4) is doubly interesting because while both kösö and pa occur, going off of the verb ending, kösö takes precedence. Also, PARU PÎ ‘spring day’ is not marked for case. I have translated it here as if it is a locative, as WOJ kiy- ‘to vanish, to disappear; to melt (of snow or ice)’ is an intransitive verb. While Western Old Japanese has both differential subject and differential object marking, where under certain circumstances the subject and object markers do not occur, this is not the case for any sort of locative marking.

An interesting, and likely related, phenomenon is that these “anomalous” endings can occur even without a kakari particle triggering them. While most of could be easily explained away due to the other sort of modal information the endings contain, the attributive can occur as a marker of final predication without any trigger:

(5) 我衣手乃干時毛名寸
1sg=POSS sleeve=GEN dry-ATTR time=ASF be.not-ATTR
‘There is no time at all for my sleeves to dry.’ (MYS X:1994) (Vovin 2009: 624; glossing and transcription modified to match my own).

That being said, Vovin (2009: 626) compares the semantics of this sort of construction to constructions in modern Japanese with a verb, the inferrential evidential の no, and the copula だ da, so here too it might be that there is some sort of modal meaning that is triggering the change. This is, in any case, a very interesting sort of insubordination—a formally subordinate clause which is used as a main clause—as it in a way lines up with some of the functions of insubordinate clauses presented in Evans (2007), like expressing modality and evidentiality, but doesn’t resemble them in many other ways.

Note that these are the final two lines of MYS X:1994. There is no potential head that …nakî could be modifying as a relative clause. Also note that the additive-scalar focus particle  is misspelled as  in (5). For those worried that this might invalidate this poem’s status as an example, Vovin (2009: 623–632) cites 14 more examples in WOJ, and 7 examples from EOJ.

An earlier version of the article had a typo, saying Okinawan =ga required the attributive ending. Non-final =ga requires the tentative ending, as I described in an earlier article.

Evans, Nicholas. 2007. “Insubordination and its uses.” In: Irina Nikolaeva (ed.). Finiteness: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 366–431.

Vovin, Alexander. 2009. A Descriptive and Comparative Grammar of Western Old Japanese. Part Two: Adjectives, Verbs, Adverbs, Conjunctions, Particles, Prepositions. Folkestone: Global Oriental.

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