The particle ne in the development of interactional positioning in L2 Japanese
Keywords:interactional particle, study abroad, interactional positioning
The use of the sentence-final particle ne by a group of ten learners of Japanese is investigated longitudinally over a period spanning two years: before, during, immediately after and six-months after return from a year of study in Japan (SA). Quantitative observation reveals two patterns of use, that is, ‘prolific' and ‘exiguous' styles. Learners in the prolific group display frequent use from before the start of SA, and a subsequent plateau; the others use ne more rarely until after the SA, when the two groups' patterns start converging. In line with previous research, we argue that a certain level of lexical and grammatical competence (which we posit to be at least higher intermediate level) is a precondition for the use of ne, but against previous research, we suggest that the amount of naturalistic exposure in an immersion context is not necessarily a decisive factor in its development. Qualitative analysis of the conversational-analytical structuring of interactional meanings shows that regardless of the amount of particle use, both groups are able to deploy ne as a marker of interactional alignment in formulaic and non-formulaic tokens. Interestingly, developments can be observed also in the six months after SA, in which all learners increase proportion and/or range of uses of ne.
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