Language socialization through morphology: The affective suffix -CHAU in Japanese

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This paper analyzes the so-called aspectual suffix -CHAU used by a Japanese mother (M) to her two-year-old son (Y). -CHAU, a suffix expressing completion of a situation, comes from -TE-SHIMAU, meaning 'put away', and reflects the speaker's negative affect upon completion of certain events or actions. The data came from the transcripts of audio-recorded conversational interactions between one mother-child pair. Verbs inflected with -CHAU carry negative connotations involving damage or physical harm to an entity, while most verbs not inflected with -CHAU do not. Thus, -CHAU in M's speech conveys the speaker's negative attitude toward completion of a situation, rather than mere marking of completion. The earliest meaning of -CHAU shown to Y by his mother is affective, presenting the completion of a particular action or event as negative, not just completed. Indeed, 85% of M's use of -CHAU is for socialization of the child's behavior: teaching Y how to treat toys, eat, handle food, and so on. These targets of socialization are types of knowledge that are important for a child's physical and social well-being. It is shown that the framework of language socialization sheds new light on the analysis of the acquisition of -CHAU.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1423-1441
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Nov 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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