The Animacy Hierarchy and its role in Japanese existential verbs

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Animacy is a distinguished basic principle in shaping the languages that might be universal and also culturally specific. In order to discover the existence of its hierarchy in Japanese and to what extent the significant role persists on the existential verbs, two kinds of study were done among the Japanese native speakers. The first one was done primarily to elucidate the animacy hierarchy. A sample of forty people in Japan took part in expressing their opinions. The second study, based on the previous results, was then conducted to figure out the evidence of animacy effect in the Japanese existential verbs of aru and iru. In more specific, whether motion of movement was influencing the verbs and the verb order as well. This involved sixty subjects from the same country. The first study’s findings suggested that the Japanese animacy concept was largely hierarchical with some nouns culturally conceptualized. As for its development in the second study on existential verbs, both animacy and the motion of movement played significant roles. Scrambled verb order, however, did not evoke any clear differences. The implication of these studies were that in the appropriate contexts that motion of movement could replace animacy as the main factor affecting preferences of the correct existential verbs and that Japanese language learners might learn to apply this knowledge in creating Japanese sentences.
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