Expressions of Propositional Modality in Japanese and Chinese


This study investigates expressions of propositional modality (epistemic and evidential) in Japanese and Chinese. It aims to highlight some fundamental characteristics of and differences between the modal systems in the two languages. It has been found that adverbs in Chinese play a more important role than adverbs in Japanese in expressing modal meanings. This study has also found that more modal expressions are used in the Japanese text than in the Chinese translations. That is to say, Chinese language speakers seem to prefer straightforward assertions to marked epistemic forms. In other words, Chinese speakers often choose realis modality when describing things, situations or their own ideas, unless the speaker thinks it is very necessary to clearly indicate that the proposition is not an absolute fact, or has not been confirmed to be a truth. Data of this study are collected from a Japanese-Chinese bilingual corpus, and the discussion is based on a concept of realis/irrealis.

Share and Cite:

Liu, X. (2014). Expressions of Propositional Modality in Japanese and Chinese. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 4, 142-149. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2014.41012.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Arita, S. (2009). Tense and Settledness in Japanese Onditionals. In B. Pizziconi, & M. Kizu (Eds.), Japanese Modality: Exploring Its Scope and Interpretation (pp. 117-149). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
[2] Beijing Center for Japanese Studies (2003). Chuu-Nichi Taiyaku Coopasu [Bilingual Chinese and Japanese Corpus].
[3] Dong, X. C. (1982). Xin. Nanchang: Hunan People’s Publishing House (Translation A).
[4] Frawley, W. (1992). Linguistic Semantics. Hillsdale, NJ: Laurence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
[5] Halliday, M. A. K. (1994). An Introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd ed.). London: Arnold.
[6] Hsieh, C.-L. (2009). Epistemic Stance Taking in Chinese Media Discourse. Lilun Yuyanxue Yanjiu (Electronic version), 3, 1-35.
[7] Johnson, Y. (1999). Modariti Riron no Meikakuka o Motomete (A Novel Entrance to the Theory of Modality). In Y. S. Alam (Ed.), Gengogaku to Nihongo Kyooiku (Linguistics and Japanese Language Education) (pp. 145-160). Tokyo: Kurosio Publishers.
[8] Kurotaki, M. (2005). Deontic Kara Epistemic e no Fuhensei to Sootaisei: Modariti no Nichi-Eigo Taishoo Kenkyuu. Tokyo: Kurosio Publishers.
[9] Li, R. (2004). Modality in English and Chinese: A Typological Perspective. Boca Raton, FL:
[10] Liu, X. (2008). The Discourse Functions of the Modal Auxiliaries “Wake Da” and “No Da” in Japanese. Munich: Lincom Europa Academic Publications.
[11] Lyons, J. (1977). Semantics (Vol. 1 and 2). Cambridge, London, New York, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.
[12] Masuoka, T. (2002). Handan No Modality. Nihongogaku [Japanese Linguistics], 21, 6-16.
[13] Miyazaki, K. et al. (2002). Modariti [Modality]. Tokyo: Kurosio.
[14] Narrog, H. (2009). Modariti to Bun no Kaisoo Koozoo [Modality and Structure of Sentence]. Gengo [Language], 38, 34-41.
[15] Natsume, S. (1904). Kokoro. In Beijing Center for Japanese Studies.
[16] Palmer, F. R. (2001). Mood and Modality (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.
[17] Saji, K. (1999). Nihongo Gakushuusha ni Nihongo no Modariti o Doo Oshieru ka [How to Teach Modality in Japanese to Japanese Language Learners]. Gengo [Language], 28, 80-83.
[18] Shirakawa, H. (2006). Bunpoo II-Bun [Grammar II-Sentence]. In Y. Nuibe, & S. Tawata (Eds.), Kooza Nihongo Kyooikugaku (Teaching Japanese as a Second Language) Vol. 6 Gengo no Taikei to Koozoo (pp. 50-68). Tokyo: 3A Network.
[19] Tamaji, M. (2005). Nihongo to Chuugokugo no Modariti no Taishoo Kenkyuu: Gengo Ruikeiron no Kanten Kara (A Contrastive Study of Modality in Japanese and Chinese: A Linguistic Typological Perspective). Takamatsu Daigaku Kiyoo (Research Bulletin of Takamatsu University), 44, 17-54.
[20] Teramura, H. (1978). Nihongo No Bunpoo [Japanese Grammar] (Vol. 1). Tokyo: Kokuritsu Kokugo Kenkyuujo.
[21] Teramura, H. (1984). Nihongo No Shintakusu to Imi [Syntax and Semantics in Japanese] (Vol. 2). Tokyo: Kurosio Publishers.
[22] Zhou, D. Y. (1983). Xin. Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Publishing House (Translation B).
[23] Zhu, Y. (1996). Modality and Modulation in Chinese. In M. Berry, C. Butler, R. Fawcett, & G. Huang (Eds.), Meaning and Form: Systemic Functional Interpretations (pp. 183-209). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.