A number of recent studies (Wray, 2008; Corrigan et al., 2009; Bybee, 2010; Tanabe et al., 2014) have highlighted the formulaic nature of actual language use. The present paper is part of our larger project which examines the mechanism of formulaicity observed in Japanese conversation and seeks its implications for the nature of human language in general. Japanese is known for its extensive ‘backchanneling’ behavior (e.g., Maynard, 1986, 1987; Clancy et al., 1996; Iwasaki, 1997; Nagata, 2004; Ohama, 2006) and presents a case of florescence (Chafe, 2000) by boasting an extensive repertoire of diverse expressions used for such a purpose. We report on a previously unrecognized type of expression forming part of the group: frequently used verbs with general meanings such as aru ‘exist’ iru ‘exist’ yaru ‘do’ kuru ‘come’ and wakaru ‘understand’ appear to be grammaticized as reactive tokens. We will examine these formulas in context paying attention to their prosody, structure, semantics, and function. Specifically, we find these verbs standing on their own or in a reduplicated form as a response to the prior talk. Often there is no referent in the context that can be understood as the argument of the verbs. These characteristics suggest their status as reactive tokens.
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