Grammar and Interactional Discourse: Marking Non-Topical Subject in Japanese Conversation

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

New Perspectives on Japanese Language Learning, Linguistics, and Culture




This chapter aims to demonstrate the role of the postpositional particle ga in the collaborative organization of discourse topic in Japanese conversation. Discourse topic is not static; it is a dynamic notion that is interactionally achieved in dialogic communication under a “triadic interactional framework.” The interactional triangle involves three nodes representing the speaker, the interlocutor, and the object or event on which the conversational participants place attention. The jointly attended object or event serves as a local discourse topic and a common reference point for achieving alignment and intersubjectivity (e.g., sense of shared understanding, awareness, feeling, or perspective), which is one major goal of conversational interaction. In this study, I examine face-to-face and telephone conversations involving two human referents, and analyze the role of ga in guiding and maintaining the co-participants’ orientation to the common topic. I show that ga has the function of explicitly indicating the nontopicality of a ga-marked subject which participates in a sequence of actions expressed by upcoming predicate(s), and thereby contributes to the collaborative achievement of discourse topic. These findings shed light on the interplay between grammar and interaction.


This book chapter is available in the ScholarSpace institutional repository for the University of Hawaii at Manoa:


0000-0002-7183-9888 (Kaneyasu)

Original Publication Citation

Kaneyasu, M. (2013). Grammar and interactional discourse: Marking non-topical subject in Japanese conversation. In K. Kondo-Brown, Y. Saito-Abbot, S. Satsutani, M. Tsutsui, & A. K. Wehmeyer (Eds.), New Perspectives on Japanese Language Learning, Linguistics, and Culture (pp. 123-144). National Foreign Languages Resource Center.