A Cognitive Approach to the Japanese Verb Kuru "Come"

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Author: Yin, Hui
The Japanese motion verb kuru ‘come’ can be used as either a lexical verb or an auxiliary verb. The traditional analysis of kuru involves mere itemization of its various senses (Koga, 2001). An image schema has yet to be presented to characterize its diverse instantiations. This paper undertakes this goal within the framework of Cognitive Grammar, which assumes that linguistic expressions of a single item are routinely polysemous (e.g., Langacker, 1987 & 1991). A network model and a source-path-goal (deictic center) schema are proposed in this paper to capture the relatedness of the various senses of this item. The basic (prototypical) meaning of kuru involves the theme moving toward the speaker's position (vantage position) along a spatial path. Usually the path and the final stage are profiled; however, variations (non-central meanings) of this verb do exist due to profiling different parts of the path or different stages of the motion. Three variants of this verb have been identified in this study. The other senses of kuru as a lexical verb are mainly metaphorical extensions. As an auxiliary verb, kuru mainly serves directional and aspectual functions. Cognitive domain selection or shifting (e. g. extending from the spatial domain to the temporal domain on some perceived commonalities) plays an important role in motivating semantic extensions of kuru, either as a lexical verb or as an auxiliary verb. This paper supports a semantic network model by demonstrating that all the senses of kuru are far from random (Hamada, 1989) and that all the extensions are related to the basic meaning of kuru directly or indirectly through family resemblance. It is human conceptualization of phenomena (mainly metaphor) that directly motives the extensions including the grammaticalization of a particular item.
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