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A Study of "V-te iru" in Japanese

Taeko Tomioka

Abstract

    There are a lot of mistakes made by English-speaking students of Japanese and Japanese students of English caused by the discrepancies between the functions of English "be V-ing" Japanese "V-te iru" and also by the semantic differences of verbs. This paper tries to clarify the cause of the problem and searches for a key to facilitate learning of each language in this area by analyzing the meanings of Japanese "V-te iru". Okuda's (1978, 1979) "subject-change" theory is presented as a comprehensive solution to the problem.

Contents---------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Introduction
2. Problems
    2.1 Problems of JSL students
    2.2 Problems of ESL students
3. Discussion
    3.1 "Subject-change" verbs
    3.2 Comparison of English and Japanese "progressive" forms
    3.3 Ambiguity in the interpretation of "V-te iru"
    3.4 Stative verbs
4. Conclusion
5. Implications
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. Introduction

    A couple of years ago, sitting in a train stopped at Tokyo Station, I noticed that the electric bulletin board in front said, "We are stopping at Tokyo Station now." The train was at a full stop and had been sitting at the station for some time. The intended message must have been, "We are now at Tokyo Station. ― Tokyo eki ni teisha shiteimasu." On another occasion, my daughter was playing hide-and-seek with some American kids in Kentucky. She said, "He is opening his eyes!" Another example of the same mistake. What she must have meant was "His eyes are open, ― Me o aketeru yo," not "At this moment he is engaged in opening his eyes! ― Me o ima aketeiru tokoro da." These two cases illustrate an error commonly made by Japanese students of English.

    In contrast, I often notice parallel mistakes made by English-speaking students of Japanese. For example, at one time, I heard a friend of mine say, "Tanaka-san ga ittakoto o oboemasu ka?" She should have said, "Tanaka-san ga ittakoto o oboeteimasu ka? ― Do you remember what Tanaka said?"

    Why do these mistakes occur so frequently? In this paper, I will clarify some of the problems of Japanese ESL (English as a second language) students and English-speaking JSL (Japanese as a second language) students and by analyzing the meanings of "V-te iru" in Japanese I will attempt to show why those mistakes occur. Past studies in this area will be also mentioned. I believe this will lead to a better understanding of Japanese "V-te iru" and therefore facilitate learning of each language in this area.

2. Problems

2.1 Problems of JSL students

  The "peculiar behavior" of "V-te iru" in Japanese has long been noticed by English-speaking students of Japanese and their teachers. A "V-te iru" form in Japanese is widely believed to be a grammatical equivalent of "be V-ing" (progressive form) in English. (note 1)

The examples are as follows:

[1] Hanako wa ima hon o yondeiru.
  花子は今本を読んでいる。
  Hanako is now reading a book.

[2] Hikoki ga sora o tondeiru.
  飛行機が空を飛んでいる。
  An airplane is flying in the sky.

  On the other hand, when we take a different group of verbs, the mutual correspondence ends here.

[3] Taro wa chichioya ni niteiru.
  太郎は父親に似ている。
  Taro resembles his father. (*Taro is resembling his father.)

[4] Ano hito o shitteiru.
  あの人を知っている。
  I know that man. (*I'm knowing that man.)

[5] Sono inu wa shindeiru.
  その犬は死んでいる。
  The dog is dead. (Not: The dog is dying.)

[6] Kare wa futotteiru.
  彼は太っている。   He is fat. (Not: He is getting fat.)

  Alfonso (1980.174-5) collected some of those "peculiar" verbs which behave like [3]-[6] and warned students, "All the verbs in 'Section C' occur often. They should be memorized." Martin (1988.517-9) grouped the meanings of "V-te iru" into three: (A) Repetitive (B) Continuative and (C) Resultative. And he noted there is a group of verbs, "Punctual" verbs, which preclude the continuative interpretation. His list of the examples is pretty long:

aku"come open"iku"go"kuru"come"
kaeru "return" ochiru "fall" kowareru     "break"
deru "emerge" hairu "enter" naru"become"
futoru "get fat"yaseru "get thin"hareru"clear up"
kumoru     "get cloudy"     tsukareru     "get tired"     shinu"die"
Punctual Verbs

To exemplify these verbs clearly, let me put some of these verbs in sentences.

[7] Okane ga michi ni ochiteiru.
  お金が道に落ちている。
  Somebody dropped money on the street.
  (Not: Money is falling onto the street.)

[8] Chichi wa shujutsu-shitsu ni haitteiru.
  父は手術室に入っている。
  My father is in an operating room.
  (Not: My father is entering an operating room.)

[9] Otto wa totemo tsukareteiru.
  夫はとても疲れている。
  My husband is very tired.
  (Not: My husband is getting very tired.)

  Examples [3]-[9] are incompatibe with English "be V-ing" in two different ways. [3] and [4] are verbs which never take a "progressive" form in English, while in [5]-[9], Japanese "V-te iru" usually doesn't have a "progressive" meaning, but it shows that some activity was done and now the speaker is focusing on the result of that activity. Let's look at some plausible interpretations of each sentence above:

[5'] The dog died and the result of that is still here; the body of the poor dog is lying in front of us.

[6'] He got fat. So he is fat now.

[7'] Money fell from somebody's pocket, and it was lying on the street when the speaker saw it.

[8'] My father entered an operating room some time ago and he is now there.

[9'] My husband got tired after mowing the grass all afternoon, so he is now very tired.

On the other hand, the seemingly same structure in English, "be V-ing", conveys a totally different meaning. (Note 2)

[5''] The dog is dying.
―> The dog is about to die: he is gasping and very weak.

[6''] He is getting fat.
―> He is in the process of putting on weight So he is heavier today than yesterday.

[7''] Money is falling onto the street.
―> Money is now in the process of falling from somewhere onto the street. So you can see some money flying in the air.

[8''] My father is entering an operating room.
―> My father is now being carried into an operating room. He is lying on a stretcher and ready for an operation.

[9''] My husband is getting very tired.
―> My husband has been mowing the grass for a long time, so he is getting more tired every minute.

  As for example [4], textbooks of Japanese (for example, Martin:1981.87) explain that "shiru" is not actually an equivalent of English "know". "shiru" is more like a punctual verb meaning "get to know" and "shitteiru" describes the state after getting to know something; therefore, "shitteiru" is the real counterpart of "know". The problem of English-speaking JSL students is how they can be sure which verbs are puncutal and which are not. The mere fact that a certain verb belongs to a certain group in English doesn't necessarily mean that the closest equivalent of that verb in Japanese belongs to the same group as well, or vice versa. Just as example [4] shows, "know" is a stative verb in English but punctual in Japanese. The question is whether it is a lexical property of the word or a rule-governed phenomenon the student can acquire by applying some rules. In other words, just as the student has to learn that "ashi" in Japanese denotes both "leg" and "foot", is it something he has to learn word by word?

2.2 Problems of ESL students

  In the area of teaching English to Japanese students, these problems haven't been widely noticed. Many textbooks very briefly explain the use of "be V-ing" under a section "Progressive Aspect". "Brush Up Your English Grammar", one of the textbooks being used in Japanese high schools, gives three meanings of "be V-ing" as follows (Araki:1991.26-7)

 (A) action/event in progress:

[10] The typhoon is approaching Kyushu.
  Taifu ga Kyushu ni chikazuiteiru.
  台風が九州に近づいている。

 (B) habitual/repetitive meaning with adverbial phrases, such as "always, constantly, all the time, etc.":

[11] The old woman is always complaining.
  Sono obasan wa itsumo monku o itteiru.
  そのおばあさんはいつも文句を言っている。

 (C) future meaning with verbs such as "go, come, start, leave, return, etc.":

[12] He is returning from London next week.
  Kare wa raishu rondon ni modoru.
  彼は来週ロンドンに戻る。

And there are notes, saying that certain verbs don't take the "progressive aspect":

  be, have, own, belong to, resemble, contain (verbs of durative state)
  see, hear, feel, smell (verbs of perception)
  wish, want, think, believe, like, love, know, fear (verbs of emotion)

The lists of these verbs and their labels are somewhat different from textbook to textbook, but the explanations are almost identical. As sentences [10] and [11] show, English "be V-ing" looks very similar to Japanese "V-te iru". Therefore, most students tend to have the impression that English "be V-ing" is the equivalent of Japanese "V-te iru" and that there are only a limited number of exceptions, like the verbs above. Therefore the sentences we saw in the introduction section above arise. Here are some more examples. The left of the arrow is the idea the student wants to express and the right is a common mistake made by the misuse of "be V-ing":

[13] Kare no kuruma wa depato no mae ni chushashiteiru.
  彼の車はデパートの前に駐車している。
  His car is parked in front of the department store.

―> Not: His car is parking in front of the department store.

[14] Hanako wa tenisu-bu ni haitteiru.
  花子はテニス部に入っている。
  Hanako belongs to a tennis club.

―> Not: Hanako is joining a tennis club.

Here, the student thought the closest equivalents of "chushasuru" and "hairu" are "park" and "join", which is true, and applied the grammatical device "be V-ing" for "V-te iru" and that didn't work correctly.

  This results in a serious problem. Somewhere in their learning, Japanese students will likely meet with a lot more exceptions, get confused and feel cheated. In addition to that, this kind of mistake is not as noticeable as other grammatical mistakes, especially to English teachers who do not know Japanese well, because the sentences produced are often perfectly good English sentences, like the ones in the introduction section ― "We are stopping at Tokyo Station now," "He is opening his eyes!" or like sentences [13] and [14]. Even though they are not what the students intended, they are easily overlooked. Furthermore, in most of the textbooks of English used in high schools, we can seldom find any comparison of the target and native languages regarding this grammatical point.

3. Discussion

3.1 "Subject-change" verbs

  Numerous studies have been done trying to grasp the properties of English and Japanese verbs. (note 3) Kindaichi's (1947, 1954) pioneering and very influential study is somewhat similar to Vendler's (1967) verb classification. Like Vendler, Kindaichi recognizes "stative", "durative", and "punctual" verb groups in Japanese. His study noted that Japanese punctual verbs get a "resultative state" interpretation when used in the "V-te iru" form. "shinu" and "futoru" are typical punctual verbs and therefore:

[5] Sono inu wa shindeiru. ―― resultative
  その犬は死んでいる。
  The dog is dead. (Not: The dog is dying.)

[6] Kare wa futtoteiru. ―― resultative
  彼は太っている。
  He is fat. (Not: He is getting fat.)

  This study, however, as well as later ones (Suzuki:1957, 1958, Fujii:1966, Takahashi:1969, Yoshikawa:1971), focused mainly on the temporal length of a situation. It didn't explain why the durative/punctual dichotomy isn't enough to predict continuative/resultative interpretations. It also failed to explain why certain transitive verbs, such as "tomeru" (stop), "shimeru" (close), "mageru" (bend), usually don't receive a resultative interpretation while their intransitive counterparts, "tomaru" (stop), "shimaru" (close), "magaru" (bend), do. In fact, most of the verbs listed by Kindaichi as "punctual" are intransitive verbs. Is there a temporal difference between the activities of "tomeru" (vt-transitive verb) and "tomaru" (vi-intransitive verb)and those of "shimeru" (vt) and "shimaru" (vi)?

[15] Taro wa kuruma o tometeiru. ―― continuative
  太郎は車を止めている。
  Taro is parking his car.

[16] Kuruma ga takusan doro ni tomatteiru. ―― resultative
  車がたくさん道路に止まっている。
  There are a lot of cars parked on the street.

[17] Haha wa mado o shimeteiru. ―― continuative
  母は窓を閉めている。
  My mother is closing the window.

[18] Mado ga shimatteiru. ―― resultative
  窓が閉まっている。
  The windows are closed.

  Okuda (1978a, 1978b, 1979) criticized the foregoing studies and maintained that there is a general lexical meaning common to those verbs which receive a resultative interpretation. He called those verbs "subject-change" verbs, because he found that the subjects of those verbs undergo a certain change as a result of the action of those verbs, and when used with "V-te iru", they receive a resultative state interpretation. In sentences [5] to [9], the verbs, "shinu" (die), "futoru" (get fat), "ochiru" (fall), "hairu" (enter), "tsukareru" (get tired), all suggest physical or locational changes. Some of the "subject-change" verbs can be diagrammed as below:

be alive

|==>  "shindeiru" be dead

________________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"shinda"
died


not be fat

|==>  "futotteiru" be fat

________________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"futotta"
gained weight


not have fallen

|==>  "ochiteiru" have fallen

________________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"ochita"
fell


be out

|==>  "haitteiru" be in...

________________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"haitta"
entered


not be tired

|==>  "tsukareteiru" be tired

________________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"tsukareta"
got tired

"xxxxx": resultative state
[DIAGRAM 1]

  On the other hand, in the following sentences, the subject of the sentence doesn't undergo any change however long the activity continues.

[19] Gakuseitachi ga kyoshitsu de sawaideiru.
  学生達が教室で騒いでいる。
  The students are making a lot of noise in the classroom.

be making a lot of noise
"sawaideiru"

__________________\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\_______________


[20] Tsuru ga ichiwa mogaiteiru.
  鶴が1羽もがいている。
  A crane is writhing.

be writhing
"mogaiteiru"

__________________\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\_______________

"\\\\\": continuative action/process
[DIAGRAM 2]

Let's call verbs of this group "Non-subject-change" verbs for convenience. In sentences [19] and [20] above, English "be V-ing" and Japanese "V-te iru" show a perfect match. The following is an extract from the list of verbs in these two groups (Kudo:1982.41) and their translation equivalents:

Subject-change verbs

hiraku

"open (vi)"

shimaru

"close (vi)"

kowareru

"break (vi)"

dekiru

"form, get finished"

tsubureru

"get smashed"

oreru

"get snapped"

wareru

"get broken"

magaru

"bend (vi)"

yabureru

"get torn"

tatsu

"stand"

naoru

"get cured"

yogoreru

"become dirty"

atatamaru

"become warm"

nieru

"get cooked"

waku

"get boiled"

shinu

"die"

somaru

"get dyed"

kieru

"disappear"

kawaru

"change (vi)"

kawaku

"get dry"

nureru

"get wet"

toreru

"come off"

kakaru

"hang"

hazureru

"get out of place"

taoreru

"fall down"

tachiagaru

"stand up"

ochiru

"drop (vi)"

okiru

"get up"

yoru

"drop in"

atsumaru

"gather (vi)"

hanareru

"fall apart, leave"

hairu

"enter"

deru

"get out"

iku

"go"

kuru

"come"

kaeru

"go home"

tsuku

"arrive"

dekakeru

"go out"

arawareru

"appear"

futoru

"get fat"

yaseru

"get thin"

kekkonsuru

"get married"

shushokusuru

"get a job"

nyugakusuru

"start school"

nareru

"get used to"

kizuku

"notice"

wasureru

"forget"

oboeru

"remember"

kesshinsuru

"decide"

akirameru

"give up"

kiru

"put on, wear"

haku

"put on, wear"

kaburu

"put on, wear"

nugu

"take off"

kigaeru

"change clothes"

Non-subject-change verbs

aruku

"walk"

hashiru

"run"

tobu

"fly"

nagareru

"flow"

oyogu

"swim"

suberu

"slip"

hau

"crawl"

ugoku/ugokasu

"move"

yureru/yusuru

"shake"

aegu

"pant"

unazuku

"nod"

naku

"cry"

warau

"laugh"

hoeru

"bark"

saezuru

"chirp"

kotaeru

"answer"

donaru

"shout"

hataraku

"work"

odoru

"dance"

fuku

"blow"

furu

"rain/snow"

hikaru

"shine"

tataku

"pound"

naguru

"hit"

keru

"kick"

nageru

"throw"

naderu

"pat"

osu

"push"

hiku

"pull"

narasu

"ring"

taberu

"eat"

nomu

"drink"

suu

"inhale"

nameru

"lick"

haku

"throw up"

akeru

"open (vt)"

shimeru

"close (vt)"

tsukuru

"make"

nuru

"paint"

kezuru

"cut/scrape"

kowasu/oru/waru

"break (vt)"

mageru

"bend"

maku

"wind"

shibaru

"tie"

yaburu

"tear"

tsutsumu

"wrap"

tateru

"build"

naosu

"cure"

yaku

"bake"

niru

"cook"

wakasu

"boil"

korosu

"kill"

someru

"dye"

kesu

"erase"

kaeru

"change"

ageru

"raise"

  Okuda's "subject-change" theory clearly explains why, in transitive-intransitive pairs of verbs, transitive ones usually get a continuative interpretation and not a resultative interpretation, even though those pairs convey a very similar meaning and temporal length of action: the subject of those intransitive verbs usually undergoes a change, but not that of transitive verbs. See [15]-[18] above.

3.2 Comparison of English and Japanese "progressive" forms

  In the discussion above, we notice that Japanese "V-te iru" and English "be V-ing" sometimes imply totally reversed states. In English, a progressive form of some verbs (Martin's "punctual verbs" and Vendler's "achievement verbs") refers not to an activity in progress but to a period leading up to the change of state, while a "V-te iru" form of the Japanese closest equivalents to a state after the change. The new version, with English "be V-ing" and Japanese "V-te iru" combined, of the [DIAGRAM 1] is as follows:

   be dying

|==> "shindeiru" be dead

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

died
"shinda"

   be getting fat

|==> "futotteiru" be fat

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

became fat
"futotta"

   be falling

|==> "ochiteiru" have fallen

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

fell
"ochita"

   be entering

|==> "haitteiru" have entered

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

entered
"haitta"

   be getting tired

|==> "tsukareteiru" be tired

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

got tired
"tsukareta"

                    "xxxxx": resultative state
                    "\\\\\\\\": continuative action/process
                [DIAGRAM 3]

  The diagram above shows complete symmetry. To use Quirk's (1985) terms, the English progressive with certain types of verbs indicates the incompleteness of the change, or a process of changing. (note 4) Contrastively Japanese "V-te iru" indicates the state after a certain change takes place. When verbs which imply no conclusion or change are involved, the interpretations in both languages are like [DIAGRAM 2]; the English progressive and Japanese "V-te iru" have a very similar function. Otherwise, as in [DIAGRAM 3] above, the states implied are totally reversed for English and Japanese. Let's consider more examples:

[21] Kono yofuku wa yabureteiru. ― resultative
  この洋服はやぶれている。
  This dress is torn.

   be getting torn

|==> "yabureteiru" be torn

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

got torn
"yabureta"

[22] Taro wa rikonshiteiru. ― resultative
  太郎は離婚している。
  Taro is divorced.

   be getting divorced

|==> "rikonshiteiru" be divorced

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

got divorced
"rikonshita"

[23] Kare no kizu wa mo naotteiru. ― resultative
  彼の傷はもう治っている。
  His wound is cured now.

   be getting cured

|==> "naotteiru" be cured

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

got cured
"naotta"

[24] Botan ga toreteiru. ― resultative
  ボタンが取れている。
  The button is off.

   be falling off

|==> "toreteiru" be off

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

came off
"toreta"

[25] Chichi wa okiteiru. ― resultative
  父は起きている。
  My father is up.

   be getting up

|==> "okiteiru" be up

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

got up
"okita"

[26] Haha wa daidokoro de ryori o shiteiru. ― continuative
  母は台所で料理をしている。
  My mother is cooking in the kitchen.

be cooking
"ryori o shiteiru"

__________________\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\_______________

[27] Dareka ga piano o hiteiru. ― continuative
  誰かがピアノをひいている。
  Somebody is playing the piano.

be playing
"hiiteiru"

__________________\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\_______________

                      "xxxxx": resultative state
                      "\\\\\\\\": continuative action/process

3.3 Ambiguity in the interpretation of "V-te iru"

  The "subject-change" verb theory sheds much light on some other interesting points. In Kudo's list above, any Japanese can point out that there are quite a few sentences which can have both interpretations ― resultative and continuative. In the examples above, we saw only "subject-change" verbs get a resultative interpretation in "V-te iru", but in the following sentences, verbs are "non-subject-change", and yet they receive a resultative interpretation.

[28] Haha wa nagaikoto mise o shimeteiru. ― resultative
  母は長いこと店を閉めている。
  My mother has her store closed for a long time.

   be closing "shimeteiru"

|==> "shimeteiru" have closed

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

closed
"shimeta"

[29] Kare wa sekaiju o aruiteiru. ― resultative
  彼は世界中を歩いている。
  He has walked all over the world.

   be walking "aruiteiru"

|==> "aruiteiru" have walked

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

                 "xxxxx": resultative state
                 "\\\\\": continuative action/process

  Why is this possible? "Shimeru" and "aruku" are grouped into "non-subject-change" verbs and the subject usually doesn't undergo any change. It seems when the action of the verb is conclusive, which means there is a goal in that action, and the subject of the verb undergoes "any change" after the action is done, psychological or quantative change, a resultative interpretation is possible. Or if there is anything worth mentioning about the state after the change and the speaker is more interested in that and wants to focus on it, he is guaranteed to freely assume a "resultative" interpretation even for "non-subject change" verbs. But it is only possible when the speaker successfully disambiguates the meaning by using the proper adverbial expressions in the proper context. Otherwise, the sentence gets a "continuative action" interpretation just as the "subject-change" theory suggests. In [28], the adverbial phrase "nagaikoto" (= for a long time) and in [29], "sekaiju o" (= all over the world) serve that purpose.

  The following sentences themselves are ambiguous and the listener has to depend heavily on context for their interpretation. Without proper context, the listener more easily gets a "continuative action" interpretation:

[30] Sono chokokuka wa idaina sakuhin o seisakushiteiru.
  その彫刻家は偉大な作品を制作している。
  The sculptor has produced a great work. ― resultative

or: The sculptor is now producing a great work. ― continuative

be producing "seisakushiteiru"

|==> "seisakushiteiru" have produced

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[31] Taro wa seisho o yondeiru.
  太郎は聖書を読んでいる。
  Taro has read the Bible. ― resultative

or: Taro is now reading the Bible. ― continuative

be reading "yondeiru"

|==> "yondeiru" have read

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[32] Sono otoko wa hito o koroshiteiru.
  その男は人を殺している。
  The man has murdered a person. ― resultative

or: The man is killing a person. ― continuative

   be killing a person
"hito o koroshiteiru"

|==> "hito o koroshiteiru"
|   has murdered a person

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  On the other hand, there are "subject-change" verbs whose change doesn't occur instantly. The following is the list of those verbs and their translation equivalents. (Kudo:1982.43)

noboru

"climb up"

agaru

"go up"

chikazuku

"approach"

tozakaru

"go away from"

wataru

"cross"

susumu

"advance, go forward"

korogaru

"fall down"

idosuru

"shift"

fueru

"increase (vi)"

heru

"decrease"

yakeru

"bake (vi)"

kogeru

"get burnt"

tokeru

"melt (vi)"

oriru

"come down"

For these verbs both interpretations are possible and best interpretations are suggested by the context. Look at the examples below:

[33] Sono shojo wa ki no teppen ni nobotteiru. ― resultative
  その少女は木のてっぺんに登っている。
  The girl is on top of the tree.

or

[34] Sono shojo wa ippo ippo nobotteiru. ― continuative
  その少女は一歩一歩登っている。
  The girl is climbing step by step.

 be climbing "nobotteiru"

|==> "nobotteiru" be at the top

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

climbed
"nobotta"

[35] Gohan ga kogeteiru.
  御飯が焦げている。
  The rice is burning. ― continuative

or: The rice is burnt. ― resultative

be burning "kogeteiru"

|==> "kogeteiru" be burnt

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

                   "xxxxx": resultative state
                   "\\\\\": continuative action/process

According to research done by Kudo (1982.44), of the "subject-change" verbs studied, "98% received resultative interpretations and only 2% received continuative"; on the other hand, of the "non-subject-change" verbs, "about 95% received continuative interpretations and 5% resultative". In the case of verbs in [33]-[35], the possibility of either interpretation is "fifty-fifty". These verbs depend heavily on context for their interpretation. Contextusually indicates clearly which interpretation is possible, but there are some devices to avoid the ambiguity. "V-te iru tokoro da", "V-te iru tochu da", or "V-te iru saichu da" definitely result in a "continuative" interpretation.

[36] Taro wa seisho o yondeiru tokoro da.
  太郎は聖書を読んでいるところだ。
  Taro is reading the Bible.

[37] Sono tyokokuka wa sakuhin o seisakushiteiru saichu da.
  その彫刻家は作品を制作している最中だ。
  The sculptor is producing a work.

  When the action of the verb affects the subject itself as when verbs have reflexive meanings, the interpretation of "V-te iru" is usually resultative. This is consistent with the "subject-change" verb theory.

[38] Ah, me o aketeiru yo.― resultative
  あっ,目を開けているよ。
  Ah, (his) eyes are open.

   be opening (his) eyes
"me o aketeiru"

|==> "me o aketeiru"
|   (his) eyes are open

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

opened
"aketa"

Since the object of the verb, "akeru" (= open), which gets changed, belongs to the omitted subject of the verb "kare" (= he), the interpretation is "resultative". Compare with the following:

[39] Taro wa mado o aketeiru. ― continuative
  太郎は窓を開けている。
  Taro is opening the window.

be opening the window
"mado o aketeiru"

|
|

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|____________________

opened
"aketa"

More examples similar to [38]:

[40] Ano hito wa hige o hayashiteiru. ― resultative
  あの人は髭をはやしている。
  He has a beard.

be growing a beard
"hige o hayashiteiru"

|==> "hige o hayashiteiru"
|   has a beard

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[41] Hanako ga te o ageteiru. ― resultative
  花子が手を上げている。
  Hanako's hand is up.

be raising her hand
"te o ageteiru"

|==> "te o ageteiru"
|   (her) hand is up

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

[42] Hanako wa senrei o uketeiru. (note 5) ― resultative
  花子は洗礼を受けている。
  Hanako has been baptized.

be being baptized
"senrei o uketeiru"

|==> "senrei o uketeiru"
|   has been baptized

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Again, compare with the following sentence:

[43] Hanako ga tako o ageteiru. ― continuative
  花子が凧を上げている。
  Hanako is flying a kite.

be flying a kite
"tako o ageteiru"

__________________\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\_______________

In a very few cases, continuative interpretations are possible for these verbs in [38] and [40]-[42]. But in those cases, we tend to use other devices to avoid ambiguity:

[44] Kare wa me o aketeiru tokoro da.
  彼は目を開けているところだ。
  He is opening his eyes.

[45] Ano hito wa hige o hayashiteiru saichu da.
  あの人は髭をはやしている最中だ。
  He is growing a beard.

  Finally, the following sentences show interesting differences in English and Japanese. Referring to the same sequence of events, English provides two verbs ― "put on" and "wear", while Japanese only one ― "kiru". This is because Japanese has a device "V-te iru" to indicate the state after and before an action.

[46] Ima kimono o kiteiru kara chotto mattekure. ― continuative
  今,着物を着ているからちょっと待ってくれ。
  Will you wait a minute? I'm putting on a kimono.

[47] Kimono o kiteirukara, totemo atsui. ― resultative
  着物を着ているから,とても暑い。
  As I'm wearing a kimono, I feel very hot.

be putting on
"kiteiru"

|==> "kiteiru"
| have something on/be wearing

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

put on
"kita"

This sometimes results in an error by the Japanese student, especially when he starts thinking in Japanese in expressing something in Engligh:

[48] ?She was putting on a kimono all the morning.

What the student means is clearly:

[49] She was wearing a kimono all the morning.
  彼女は朝ずっと着物を着ていた。
  Kanojo wa asa zutto kimono o kiteita.

3.4 Stative verbs

  Although Comrie (1976.48) mentioned "the distinction between states and dynamic situations is one that seems reasonably clear intuitively, and in practice one finds a large measure of agreement between individuals who are asked to classify situations as static or dynamic,..." this isn't necessarily true in the case of English and Japanese. In English, the verbs mentioned above in 2.2 as lacking in a progressive form are stative verbs. On the other hand, there is a very limited number of stative verbs in Japanese (Kindaichi:1976, 10). The list is very short and includes "iru"(exist), "aru"(exist), "dekiru",(be able to do) "yosuru"(require), "ataisuru"(be worth), "wakaru"(be able to understand), etc., and so-called potential verbs; e.g., "kireru"(can cut), "hanaseru"(can speak).

[50] Eki ni gaijin ga iru.
  駅に外人がいる。
  There is a foreigner at the station.

[51] Tsukue ga aru.
  机がある。
  There is a desk.

[52] Eigo no kaiwa ga dekinai.
  英語の会話ができない。
  I cannot speak English.

[53] Iku koto ga dekinai.
  行くことができない。
  I cannot go.

[54] Sono mondai wa jukko o yosuru.
  その問題は熟考を要する。
  The problem needs careful consideration.

[55] Kono sakuhin wa chumoku ni ataisuru.
  この作品は注目に値する。
  This work is worth paying attention to.

[56] Watashi no itta koto ga wakarimasuka?
  私の言ったことがわかりますか?
  Do you understand what I said?

[57] Kono naifu wa yoku kireru.
  このナイフはよく切れる。
  This knife cuts well.

[58] Kare wa eigo ga hanaseru.
  彼は英語が話せる。
  He can speak English.

Nitta (1983) says non-stative verbs typically receive a future tense/habitual interpretation in their citation (dictionary) form, while stative verbs typically receive a present tense interpretation in that form. This test is valid for all the verbs listed above. [50]-[58], in their citation forms, receive a present tense interpretation, while the following verbs don't.

[59] Watashi wa kokoro kara otto o aishimasu. ― future
  私は心から夫を愛します。
  I'll love my husband with my whole heart.

[60] Watashitachi wa shinbun kara shakai no dekigoto o shirimasu. ― habitual
  私達は新聞から社会の出来事を知ります。
  We learn what is happening in the world by newspapers.

[61] Watashi wa donna koto ga atte mo kare o shinjimasu. ― future
  私はどんなことがあっても彼を信じます。
  I'll believe him whatever happens.

Therefore, this confirms the general observation that Japanese has a very small number of stative verbs. Then, how can we explain the seemingly "strange behavior" of those Japanese verbs? Can we use the "subject-change" verb theory and similar diagrams? Let's look at sentences [3], [4] and some other examples with the diagrams:

[3] Taro wa chichioya ni niteiru.
  太郎は父親に似ている。
  Taro resembles his father.

|==> "niteiru" resemble

_____________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

came to resemble
"nita"

[4] Ano hito o shitteiru.
  あの人を知っている。
  I know that man.

|==> "shitteiru" know

_____________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

came to know
"shitta"

[62] Kanojo wa otto ni hara o tateteiru.
  彼女は夫に腹を立てている。
  She is angry at her husband.

|==> "hara o tateteiru" be angry

_____________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

got angry
"hara o tateta"

[63] Kare wa tsuma o osoreteiru.
  彼は妻を恐れている。
  He fears his wife.

|==> "osoreteiru" fear

_____________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

came to fear
"osoreta"

[63] Otto o shinjiteiru.
  夫を信じている。
  (I) believe my husband.

|==> shinjiteiru" believe

_____________________

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

came to believe
"shinjita"

Most Japanese verbs which express emotion/cognition behave in a similar way. If the subject of the verb experiences a certain emotion, he undergoes some psychological/emotional change. It also seems that the temporal length of coming to feel/perceive something is almost punctual. So one plausible explanation is that these verbs with "-te iru" should be interpreted as resultative ― the state after some emotion occurs. More example are as below:

kanashimu

"become sad"

okoru/hara o tateru

"get angry"

shittosuru

"become jealous"

yakimochi o yaku

"become jealous"

odoroku

"become surprised"

yorokobu

"become glad"

kandosuru

"get moved"

iradatsu/jireru

"get irritated"

konransuru/awateru/
doyosuru/urotaeru

"get confused"

kanshinsuru

"get impressed"

towakusuru

"get embarrassed"

torimidasu

"get upset"

taikutsusuru

"get bored"

uttorisuru

"get fascinated"

Although this explanation is pretty consistent with the behavior of other verbs and here we are tempted to say that most Japanese verbs, whose translational counterparts in English are stative, are actually "subject-change" verbs, this conclusion might be too hasty and certainly needs to be substantiated by more data. It would suffice to say for now that most of those Japanese verbs are at least not stative and behave like "subject-change" verbs.

4. Conclusion

  Based on what has been shown above, we can make the following conclusions:

  (1) if the subject of the verb undergoes some change ― locational, physical, etc. ― as a result of the action of the verb, "V-te iru" usually carries "resultative" interpretations. In other words the speaker's attention is focused on the state caused by the action of the verb. Therefore the sentence in the introduction of this paper, "The train is stopping at Tokyo Station now" shows the interference of the Japanese sentence "Tokyo eki ni teisha shiteimasu", which has a very similar grammatical device "V-te iru" but has a totally different meaning. The structure of the Japanese verb "teishasuru" can be diagrammed as below:

be stopping
"teishashiteiru"

|==> "teishashiteiru"
|  be standing (at...)

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

stopped
"teishashita"

  (2) As for the rest of the verbs, "V-te iru" is usually interpreted as "continuative" action. Here English and Japanese show complete parallelism.

  (3) If the object of the verb refers back to the subject, the change the object undergoes is the change of the subject. In this case, the sentence receives a resultative interpretation. The second sentence in the introduction, "He is opening his eyes!" is the result of the interference of the similar Japanese sentence "Ah, me o aketeiru yo!"

  (4) Since all verbs except stative verbs have some action, whether it is punctual or durative, the speaker can freely shift his focus, even for "subject-change" verbs, to the "continuative" action, if there is some temporal duration he wants to talk about. Therefore the phrase "me o aketeiru" can be diagrammed as below with two possible interpretations:

[38] Ah, me o aketeiru yo.
  あっ,目を開けているよ。
  Ah, his eyes are open. ― resultative

or: Ah, he is opening his eyes. ― continuative

be opening his eyes
"me o aketeiru"

|==> "me o aketeiru"
|  his eyes are open

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

opened
"aketa"

(5) In the same way, "non-subject-change" verbs can have a "resultative" interpretation, if the speaker focuses on the change after the action. Most often the change is the "psychological" or "quantitative" change of the subject.

[63] Kare wa zuibun sake o nondeiru ne.
  彼はずいぶん酒を飲んでいるね。
 He has had a lot of drink.

be drinking
"nondeiru"

|==> "nondeiru"
|   has drunk

_______\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

|xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(6) Most English stative verbs have non-stative counterparts in Japanese. And with "-te iru", those non-stative verbs indicate the state after they come to experience certain emotion/cognition.

5. Implications

  The "peculiar" behavior of "V-te iru" forms of Japanese verbs, as viewed by English-speaking people, are considered to be caused by the assumption that the closest lexical counterparts in the two languages share all their characteristics. In the previous sections, we have seen that this is a very dangerous assumption. In two different languages, the closest equivalents of some verb can refer to different aspects of the verb. Just as "know" in English refers to the whole state where that holds true, "shiru" in Japanese refers to the action "get to know" and the state after that should be referred to by "shitteiru". As Nara (1985) noticed, "events" should be the same all over, but the ways to lexicalize those events are different from language to language. This kind of semantic information should be explicitly taught to students. Just giving students translational equivalents is not only not enough but also might lead them astray.

  And at the same time, we have seen cases where seemingly similar devices in grammar ― "V-te iru" and "be V-ing" in this case ― function in contrary ways. So when we teach ESL students "English progressive aspect", it is not a good idea to give students the explanation that "be V-ing" in English is "V-te iru" in Japanese. We should avoid using "V-te iru" as a translational equivalent. It would be better, if explanation in Japanese is necessary, to use "V-te iru tokoro desu".

  When to make resultative interpretations and when to make continuative interpretations in Japanese is pretty straight-forward and rule-governed. If the JSL teacher shows how most Japanese verbs behave compared to those in English, students would get a pretty clear picture of Japanese "-te iru".

  Finally, second language teachers should be fully aware of the discrepancies between the student's native and target languages. Since the student can never be completely free from his native language, in producing a sentence in a foreign language, he makes mistakes which are apparently caused by interference of his native language. When teachers write textbooks, they should pay attention not only to the target language but to the student's native language as well.

  Since this study mainly focuses on the structure of Japanese verbs, more endeavor is expected to be done in the future from the opposite side; i.e., the study of English verbs compared to those of Japanese.

Notes

 1. Here I will limit myself to the problem in main clauses. But a lot of interesting phenomena are observed in subordinate clauses, especially in a prenominal position, such as in relative clauses. This study also focuses on the cases when "V-te iru" conveys a different meaning from its simple present/past forms.

 2. As you may notice, the interpretations of "be V-ing" in English need more careful attention. Even in these limited examples, they are not as homogeneous as they look.

 3. See for example Kindaichi (1976), Vendler (1967), Quirk (1985), etc.

 4. By "certain kinds of verbs" he meant "processes", "accomplishments", "transitional events", and "transitional acts" verbs.

 5. In this sentence, because of the verb "ukeru" (= receive), Hanako undergoes change.

References

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Araki, Kazuo. 1991. Brush Up Your English Grammar. Tokyo: 数研出版.

Comrie, Bernard. 1976. Aspect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fujii, Tadashi. 1966. 「動詞+ている」の意味. In H. Kindaichi 1976:97-114.

Kindaichi, Haruhiko. 1947. 国語動詞の一分類. In H. Kindaichi 1976:5-26.

____________. 1954. 日本語動詞のテンスとアスペクト. In H. Kindaichi 1976:27-61.

____________. 1976. 日本語動詞のアスペクト. Tokyo: むぎ書房刊.

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Quirk, Randolph, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik. 1985. A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.

Suzuki, Shigeyuki. 1957. 日本語動詞のすがた(アスペクト)について. In H. Kindaichi 1976:63-81.

____________. 1958. 日本語の動詞のとき(テンス)とすがた(アスペクト). In H. Kindaichi 1976:83-95.

Takahashi, Taro. 1969. すがたともくろみ. In H. Kindaichi 1976:117-48.

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