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Auteur: Yoshinori NISHIJIMA

Perspectives in Japanese and German: A Contrastive Analysis of Sign Expressions in Public Spaces

Abstract/Résumé: Research on the perspectives from which linguistic expressions are formulated has increased in the past 20 years due to the development of cognitive linguistics. For example, Ikegami (2000) showed that Japanese and English employ different perspectives by comparing the opening sentence of a Japanese literary text with its English translation. Similarly, Narita (2009) compared sentences from literary texts with their translations between Japanese and German. However, such studies analyzing literary text translations contain little discussion on the validity of the translation-based comparison method, particularly in terms of comparability and objectivity. This paper has three purposes: (1) to claim that the original and translation-based methods are not always appropriate for perspective studies; (2) to propose, as an alternative method, comparing functionally equivalent formulas used on public signs, i.e., Watch your step, Keep out, and Out of Service; and (3) to show how Japanese differs from German in the perspectives from which corresponding expressions are formulated. Expressions were collected from signs on buses, trains, and railway stations in Japan and Germany. Examples include haire-masen/Kein Eingang (‘no entrance’), senro-ni orite-wa ike-masen/Ausstieg verboten (‘do not go down to the railway track’), and ishitsubutsu-gakari/Fundbuero (‘the lost and found’). Functionally equivalent expressions were selected for the analysis. For example, formula telling bus passengers that the bus will stop at the next station is tsugi tomari-masu (next TOP stop POL) in Japanese and Wagen haelt (vehicle NOM stop) in German. These corresponding expressions can be compared syntactically and semantically. The former has no surface-level subject; it conveys that “I” and “we” or the bus will stop at the next station. The scene is described from the perspective inside the situation, i.e., from within the bus. The latter has a third-person subject, Wagen, signifying that the bus is observed from the perspective outside the situation. These different perspectives are shown through the comparison of corresponding sign expressions. The analysis reveals that Japanese tends to formulate expressions from a perspective inside the scene where the event occurs, whereas German expresses sentences from the perspective outside the scene. Key words: perspectives, linguistic formulation, sign expression, Japanese, German References Ikegami, Y. (2000). Nihongoron eno shotai [Invitation to theories of Japanese]. Tokyo: Kodansha. Narita, T. (2009). Shiten to nichidokugo no hyogen—honyaku no taisho o tegakarini [Perspective and expressions in Japanese and German: Based on comparison of original texts with their translations]. Tokyo Gaikokugo Daigaku Ronshu, 79, 399-413.