Definiteness and Number in Japanese to German Machine Translation
Why swimming is just as difficult as dying for Japanese learners of English
- While both Japanese and English have a grammatic al form denoting the progressive, the two forms (te-iru & be+ing) interact differently with the inherent semantics of the verb to which they attach (Kindaichi, 1950; McClure, 1995; Shirai, 2000). Japanese change of state verbs are incompatible with a progressive interpretation, allowing only a resultative interpretation of V+ te-iru, while a progressive interpretation is preferred for activity predicates. English be+ing denotes a progressive interpretation regardless of the lexical semantics of the verb. The question that arises is how we can account for the fact that change of state verbs like dying can denote a progressive interpretation in English, but not in Japanese. While researchers such as Kageyama (1996) and Ogihara (1998, 1999) propose that the difference lies in the lexical semantics of the verbs themselves, others such as McClure (1995) have argued that the difference lies in the semantics of the grammatical forms, be+ing and te-iru. We present results from an experimental study of Japanese learners’ interpretation of the English progressive which provide support for McClure’s proposal. Results indicate that independent of verb type, learners had significantly more difficulty with the past progressive. We argue that knowledge of L2 semantics-syntax correspondences proceeds not on the basis of L1 lexical semantic knowledge, but on the basis of grammatical forms.