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date: 21 June 2021


Abstract and Keywords

This handbook selects the topics that capture the excitement of Japanese linguistics over the past fifteen years or so. It focuses on “formal” studies of Japanese syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, phonology, acquisition, sentence processing, and information structure. The articles cover a variety of topics, are written by linguists who have directly contributed to the understanding of the particular topics, and are relatively short. The last fifteen years have seen theoretically oriented works on Japanese syntax and semantics in vast numbers. The topics featured in the handbook cover a wide range of phenomena: ellipsis, compounds, quantifiers and numerals, and operator binding, to name just a few. Acquisition research on Japanese has a long history of its own, comparable to syntax and phonology. Finally, an overview of the articles included in the handbook is provided.

Keywords: Japanese linguistics, syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, phonology, acquisition, sentence processing, information structure

In his 1977 keynote address to the Japanese linguistics community gathered for the LSA Linguistic Institute in Honolulu, Susumu Kuno congratulated the field for the enormous body of work produced on Japanese, which, as he observed, gave the Japanese language the distinction of being the most studied language within the generative tradition next to English (Hinds and Howard 1978: 213). Today, the sheer number of linguists working on Japanese and the immense volume of research that continues to be published serve as witnesses to the fact that the Japanese language continues to engender high-quality work in vast amounts. Susumu Kuno's congratulatory comment in 1977, if repeated today, would be just as apt.

For this Handbook of Japanese Linguistics, we selected topics that capture this excitement of the field over the past fifteen years or so. In making the selections, we made two decisions. First, we wanted this handbook to have an overall coherence in approach. For this reason we decided to focus our coverage on “formal” studies of Japanese—syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, phonology, acquisition, sentence processing, and information structure. The chapters relate to each other across the different subdisciplines not only in the general approach taken but also at times even in the particular phenomenon being studied. For example, we find issues of word order taken up in syntax, acquisition, processing, and information structure. Moreover, although the topics we chose center on some aspect of Japanese, they also contribute to linguistic theory in general. As we discuss in this introduction, many works that have appeared in the last fifteen years or so have this characteristic: not only do they provide new and exciting analyses of aspects of Japanese, but also they make a direct and important contribution to our understanding of human language. Each chapter indicates precisely in what way the study of a particular topic has a bearing on the general linguistic theory. Due to this (p. 4) focus on “formal” approaches to Japanese linguistics, we did not attempt to cover other areas such as discourse analysis and sociolinguistics. This is not to say that there have not been important contributions beyond Japanese in these research domains—for example, in the area of “politeness” there are a number of important achievements that have contributed to our overall understanding of this topic. Nevertheless, we feel that, because of fundamental differences in approach, it would take away from the coherence of the Handbook to try to include works from these areas.

Our second decision concerns how we present the various topics. Going back for a moment to Susumu Kuno's 1977 address, it is suggestive of the field at that time that his remarks are included in Hinds and Howard's Problems in Japanese Syntax and Semantics (1978). Among the large number of subfields of Japanese linguistics, syntax and semantics represented the largest body of work then, and, we believe, also over the past fifteen years. Consequently, we chose a variety of topics in syntax-semantics and requested contributions from a number of linguists. We also included morphology, which is relatively new in generative studies of Japanese, and chose a topic that has a direct bearing not only on morphological theory but on syntactic theory as well. To round out the volume, we decided to include state-of-the-art chapters on phonetics, phonology, acquisition, sentence processing, and information structure. The chapters on syntax-semantics-morphology cover a variety of topics, are written by linguists who have directly contributed to the understanding of the particular topics, and are relatively short. The state-of-the-art chapters, some of which are considerably longer, are also written by leading scholars of the subfield.

1.1 Syntax and Semantics

S.-Y. Kuroda's 1965 doctoral dissertation, Generative Grammatical Studies in the Japanese Language, marked the beginning of the generative studies of Japanese. The vast amount of research that Susumu Kuno celebrated in 1977 was spawned by Kuroda's work to a large extent, all in the spirit of pioneering a new way to look at Japanese. Given that there was no prior work of this nature, the focus, necessarily, was on the analysis of Japanese through application of contemporary linguistic theory, although Kuroda himself was clearly using Japanese to gain insights into the nature of human language and provided important theoretical innovations such as the attachment transformation. In one way or another, most works in the 1970s and early 1980s asked the question: What can linguistic theory say about the Japanese language?

The main enterprise of this era was to seek empirical generalizations within Japanese that made it possible to describe some significant aspect of Japanese grammar in a formal and insightful fashion. In other words, the focus was principally (p. 5) on Japanese independent of other languages, and linguistic theory was a tool by which one could gain insights into the language. It is important to point out that this singular focus on the analysis of a specific language reflected the linguistic theory of the time—the standard theory developed by Chomsky and his colleagues and students in the 1950s and 1960s. Transformational-generative grammar, as it was known, set out a framework that tended to steer researchers to look deeply into a single language as opposed to seek generalizations across languages. Exemplary works in this enterprise include Kuno 1973, Inoue 1976, and Shibatani 1976, among many others.

In the 1980s, alongside the “Japanese-specific” research agenda of earlier years, a fundamentally new research direction in Japanese linguistics arose. This new direction is captured in the following question, which echoes the title of a WCCFL paper Kuroda gave in 1983: What can Japanese say about linguistic theory?

That is, works began to appear in vast numbers that used Japanese as the basis for making a direct contribution to linguistic theory. In most cases these works also embodied the spirit of the earlier era in presenting an extensive analysis of some aspect of Japanese grammar. The difference is that the analysis of Japanese is not an end in itself, but it is used to make a direct contribution to our knowledge of human language. It is no accident that this new trend in Japanese linguistics coincided with a fundamental shift in linguistic theory, from the rule-based transformational-generative grammar to what has come to be known as the principles-and-parameters approach to human language.

The principles-and-parameters approach postulates that the core of all human languages is defined by a uniform set of principles. The differences among languages arise from the fact that these principles are parameterized; the job of the language learner is to set the parameter of each principle according to the language encountered in the environment (Chomsky 1981). To give a couple of examples, there is a principle that requires that every phrase be headed; this principle is parameterized for head initial (e.g., Indonesian) or head final (e.g., Turkish). (See also Stowell 1981.) In another work, Rizzi (1982) observed that English and Italian have different parametric settings for bounding nodes for Subjacency: the bounding nodes S (present-day TP or IP) and NP (DP) are what are set for English, but in Italian they are set for S′ (CP) and NP (DP). This allows extraction out of some wh-islands in Italian, for example. The principles-and-parameters theory set a new research agenda that sought to identity the universal principles and the nature of the parameter associated with them. To carry out this agenda, it often became necessary to pursue cross-linguistic analysis as opposed to simply looking deeply into one language.

An early work in this period that used an analysis of Japanese to shed light on linguistic theory is Saito and Hoji 1983.1 They challenged Ken Hale's (1980, 1982) Configurationality Parameter, which had emerged as a highly influential theory of human language within the principles-and-parameters approach. Hale suggested a parameter that partitioned the languages of the world into two groups: configurational and nonconfigurational.

  1. (p. 6) (1) Introduction

Unlike configurational languages, which have the typical hierarchical structure of the subject separated from the VP, nonconfigurational languages lack the VP node, so that they are associated with a flat structure, with all phrases being dominated directly by the S node. A reflex of this nonconfigurational property of flat structure is free word order: because all phrases have a symmetrical (mutual c-command) relation with the verb, they are free to occur in any order without disturbing the meaning of the sentence. Because Japanese is a free-word-order language, Hale (1980) suggested that it belongs to the nonconfigurational group of languages.

In response to this, Saito and Hoji (1983) used arguments based on weak crossover, condition C effects, and other phenomena to show that Japanese is just as configurational as English. Although their empirical work focused by and large on the Japanese language, the principal message that the field took away from it is that there is no such thing as a nonconfigurational language. Thus, to the question, what can Japanese say about linguistic theory? Saito and Hoji's work had a clear message: every language is configurational. Although the “flat” structure has been rejected, it is important to point out that linguists in recent years have “rediscovered” Hale's proposal and have incorporated parts of it in dealing with free word order and related issues (e.g., Bošković and Takahashi 1998; Miyagawa 1997, 2001; Oku 1998; Saito 2003).

Other works of this nature—using Japanese to shed light on linguistic theory—include Miyagawa 1989, which, based on earlier works by Haig (1980) and Kuroda (1980, 1983), showed that the distribution of numeral quantifiers in Japanese gave evidence for NP trace, a theoretical notion whose existence has been questioned throughout the history of generative grammar (see also Ueda 1986). In another work, Watanabe (1992) analyzed wh-questions in Japanese as involving overt movement of a phonetically empty operator, in a fashion that parallels overt wh-movement languages. He concluded that in a wh-question, some element of the wh-phrase must move overtly, and that this is a universal requirement. This laid the groundwork for the notion of “strong” (and, by implication, “weak”) features in the early period of the Minimalist Program (Chomsky 1993).

The last fifteen years have seen theoretically oriented works on Japanese syntax and semantics in vast numbers. The topics discussed cover a wide range of phenomena: ellipsis, compounds, quantifiers and numerals, and operator binding, just to name a few. Whenever there is an important theoretical issue, it is now (p. 7) almost always possible to find relevant works on Japanese. It is this sense of excitement that we wish to convey in this Handbook, and we have included articles on various topics in syntax and semantics for this reason.

We cannot close out the section on syntax and semantics without a mention of scrambling. No other topic has attracted as much attention among those who work on Japanese, and the interest has only grown as we have attained a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. One reason why scrambling has intrigued so many linguists is that at any given point, there are at least two theories competing for the correct analysis of it. In the 1970s and 1980s, the issue was whether scrambling resulted from movement or if the various word orders were base generated. Harada (1977) was the first to take a clear position on scrambling as movement. Shortly thereafter, Hale (1980, 1982) proposed the configurationality parameter and suggested that Japanese belongs to the nonconfigurational family of languages, with the result that scrambling is a function of the flat phrase structure, thus base generated. As we noted earlier, Saito and Hoji (1983) responded to Hale's characterization of Japanese as being a nonconfigurational language by showing that Japanese is associated with a configurational syntactic structure.

Saito and Hoji's characterization naturally led to the view that scrambling is due to movement. But now, a question arises: What motivates this movement? This is a hotly debated issue today. One view, held by the majority of linguists working on scrambling, is that the movement responsible for scrambling is purely optional, and no motivation is necessary (e.g., Fukui 1993; Kuroda 1988; Saito 1992, 2005; Saito and Fukui 1998). An early work that represents this view of scrambling is Saito 1989, which argued that scrambling—he was making use of long-distance scrambling—is semantically vacuous and must be radically reconstructed at LF. The semantic vacuity of scrambling provides the crucial argument for those who wish to view scrambling as purely optional: if it has no semantic import, it makes sense for it to be optional. The other view of scrambling is that it must be motivated by some factor. One of the earliest analyses to adopt this view is from Kitahara (1994), who suggests that scrambling is subject to what we would now call Closest Attract, a notion that requires a triggering feature for the movement. In a series of works, Miyagawa (1994, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005a, 2005b, 2006) develops a study of scrambling that requires some motivation—either a formal requirement such as the EPP or, in the case of optional scrambling, the idea that it must lead to a new interpretation not possible without the movement (see Fox 2000). Other works that assume some sort of motivation include Grewendorf and Sabel 1999, Kawamura 2004, Kawashima and Kitahara 2003, and Sabel 2001, among others. In a slightly different vein, Bošković and Takahashi (1998) argue that the minimalist notion of “last resort” applies to scrambling. Two books devoted to scrambling and related issues have recently appeared (Karimi 2003, Sabel and Saito 2005), and in this Handbook, we decided not to take it up beyond what we just described, because so much has recently been written and it would be difficult to do justice to the phenomenon in one chapter. That is not to say that we completely ignore the issue. Miyamoto's chapter on sentence processing, and Murasugi and Sugisaki's chapter (p. 8) on acquisition, treat scrambling among other constructions from the perspectives particular to these chapters.

1.2 Phonology

Largely parallel to research in syntax and semantics, work in Japanese phonology has undergone a reorientation from focusing on the analysis of the language to focusing on the conclusions to be drawn from such analysis for general phonological theory; the relation between phonology, morphology, and syntax; and the structure of the lexicon.2 Although this perspective was not absent from leading works of the earlier period, such as McCawley 1968 and Haraguchi 1977, it has taken center stage since the mid-1980s.

Work on the prosodic morphology of Japanese (Ito 1990; Ito and Mester 2003; Kubozono 1995; Mester 1990; Poser 1984a, 1990) revealed the overwhelming importance of the bimoraic foot—a unit realized as a single heavy syllable or as a sequence of two light syllables—in many kinds of word formation where canonical patterns play a role, such as nicknames, truncations, and the like. The fact that such higher level organization into feet asserts itself in Japanese, a language lacking an intensity-based system of prominence (“stress”; see Beckman 1986), was instrumental in establishing the view that prosodic structure—and most prominently, foot structure—is a general kind of rhythmic skeleton present in all languages, not just in those where foot heads are marked with phonetic stress. In a different vein, Ito and Mester (1986, 2004; Mester and Ito 1989) used some of the central morphophonemic alternations of Japanese to argue for specific properties of auto-segmental representation and feature specification and, more recently, for a specific version of markedness principles operating in tandem with constraints on word structure in Optimality Theory.

The modern understanding of pitch accent systems is to a significant extent based on studies devoted to Japanese, such as Poser 1984b, Kubozono 1993, Pierrehumbert and Beckman 1988, and Selkirk and Tateishi 1988, which have established the general result that such systems involve only a few tonal landmarks (boundary tones and accentual tones) assigned at well-defined locations within an articulated prosodic constituent structure. As a last example, the segregation of the Japanese lexicon into separate layers governed by somewhat different principles (native, Sino-Japanese, Western loans) served as an empirical model for different variants of a universal theory of the phonological lexicon in Optimality Theory that can adequately represent such internal variation (Fukazawa, Kitahara, and Ota 1998; Ito and Mester 1995a, 1995b, 1999, 2001, 2002).

In one of the phonology chapters, “Lexical Classes in Phonology,” Junko Ito and Armin Mester explore loanword phonology from the perspective of substructures that are known to exist in the Japanese lexicon. In another, “Japanese (p. 9) Accent,” Haruo Kubozono reexamines the Tokyo Japanese accent and develops a much simplified analysis. In “Prominence Marking in the Japanese Intonation System,” Jennifer J. Venditti, Kikuo Maekawa, and Mary E. Beckman show that Japanese employs a variety of prosodic mechanisms to mark focal prominence, although, crucially, this does not include manipulation of accent.

1.3 Acquisition

Acquisition research on Japanese has a long history of its own, comparable to syntax and phonology. One of the main topics has been word-order variation as in syntax. Given that both SOV and OSV orders are available in adult grammar, with S and O carrying morphological nominative and accusative case markers, respectively, the question often addressed has been at what age children can correctly comprehend the “scrambled” OSV order (e.g., Hayashibe 1975, Sano 1977). The early works noted that young children had difficulty with the OSV order, mistaking it as SOV, which suggests that in early stages word order plays a prominent role, and it is the “neutral” SOV order that they assume. However, Otsu (1994) questioned this result by showing that children had no problem with the scrambled OSV order if a proper context introduced the sentence, thus showing that scrambling occurs earlier than previously believed. This result was reinforced by Murasugi and Kawamura (2005), who demonstrated that even three-year-olds were able to comprehend OSV sentences and, further, had knowledge of the reconstruction properties of scrambling.

Although it has been shown that many grammatical properties are acquired quite early, it has also been noted that the acquisition of others may be delayed. One candidate for late acquisition is A-chain. Here, the relevant theoretical proposal is Borer and Wexler's (1987) A-Chain Deficit Hypothesis, which states that maturation is required for the formation of A-chains. A number of works have appeared, for example, on Japanese passives and unaccusatives to examine this hypothesis, and a definite conclusion is yet to be attained. Whereas Miyamoto et al. (1999) argue for the hypothesis, Sano (2000) and Sano, Endo, and Yamakoshi (2001) argue against it, both on the basis of acquisition data on unaccusatives. Sugisaki (1999) and Minai (2000) take the late acquisition of passive as evidence for the hypothesis. Machida, Wexler, and Miyagawa (2004) concur with them, offering an alternative interpretation for the unaccusative data. But Murasugi and Kawamura (2005) suggest that the late acquisition of passive may be due to factors independent of A-chain maturation. The debate is yet to be settled.

In their chapter on acquisition, “The Acquisition of Japanese Syntax,” Keiko Murasugi and Koji Sugisaki explore a number of issues concerning parameter setting and developmental factors in language acquisition. They consider those cases that fall under Wexler's (1998) Very Early Parameter Setting (VEPS) (p. 10) hypothesis and those that apparently involve delayed parameter setting. They discuss some data that pertain to A-chain maturation as well as to the gradual process of the acquisition of lexical items.

1.4 Processing

Paralleling its study in syntax and semantics and also acquisition, scrambling is a prominent topic of research in Japanese sentence processing. The question is, is there a difference in processing load between SOV and OSV word orders? There is an important theoretical implication. By Hale's (1980, 1982) configurationality parameter, languages with flexible word order are nonconfigurational. According to this characterization, different word orders such as SOV and OSV are base generated. No movement is involved, so that, from the viewpoint of processing, there should be no difference in the processing load across different orders. However, the “scrambling” analysis (Harada 1977, Saito 1985) could predict a difference. SOV is the “base” order, and OSV involves movement of the object over the subject, thus increasing complexity and processing load. As Edson T. Miyamoto discusses in his chapter on sentence processing, “Processing Sentences in Japanese,” the results of experiments on this topic have been mixed.

Another area that has attracted attention is the relative clause. Given that Japanese is head final, including the head of the relative clause, researchers wonder how speakers process relative clauses. Here, too, there are consequences for the general theory of sentence processing. What Miyamoto in his chapter calls a “head-driven” model predicts that Japanese is processed nonincrementally. Everything must be kept in working memory until the pertinent head appears and assigns each phrase an appropriate role. This makes Japanese sentence processing fundamentally different from the processing of head-initial languages. That claim, in fact, has been made (e.g., Mazuka and Lust 1990; see Hasegawa 1990 in the same volume for comments). Moreover, the nonincremental processing places a huge burden on memory. Miyamoto summarizes the research on Japanese relative-clause processing, including discussion of alternatives to this language-specific model.

1.5 Information Structure

Kuroda's 1965 doctoral dissertation includes a discussion on -wa and -ga, where he proposes that they represent distinct judgment forms. Although he has developed this analysis over the years, equally influential on this and other topics in the analysis of Japanese was Kuno's (1973) The Structure of the Japanese Language. That (p. 11) book laid the groundwork for a number of important research topics, and one of its vital achievements is the analysis of -wa and -ga in what we would now call information structure.

In her chapter, “Japanese -Wa, -Ga, and Information Structure,” Caroline Heycock revisits the important descriptive observations in Kuno 1973 and develops a view of -wa and -ga based on modern theories of information structure. This is a continuation of the project she initiated in Heycock 1993, where she provided an explanation for what Kuno (1973:49–59) called “exhaustive-listing ga” in the mapping from syntactic structure to information structure. As Heycock shows, the information-structure analysis of -wa and -ga not only can successfully account for their complex properties but also may help to clarify aspects of the theory of information structure itself. Moreover, there may very well be contributions to be made to the analysis of other languages (e.g., verb-second).

1.6 Brief Summary of the Chapters

1.6.1 Phonetics and Phonology

In “Lexical Classes in Phonology,” Junko Ito and Armin Mester explore class distinctions, such as Germanic versus Latinate in English, which occur in virtually all languages.3 The synchronic status of such lexical strata is controversial in linguistics, and Japanese plays a prominent role in the discussion, partially because lexical class distinctions are so clearly visible, even in the writing system. With the shift in phonology from a rule-based derivational framework to a system of ranked and violable constraints that came with Optimality Theory, a new perspective on this topic has developed. This chapter takes up some of the conceptual issues connected with the theoretical shift and its empirical predictions and problems.

In “Japanese Accent,” Haruo Kubozono demonstrates the simplicity of (Tokyo) Japanese accent through a review of the recent studies. He specifically argues for the following two points. First, word accent is only sparsely specified in the lexicon; that is, only certain classes of words in the whole vocabulary are lexically specified with their accent patterns, whereas a majority of words are literally unmarked in the lexicon. Second, major accent rules previously proposed as independent rules in Tokyo Japanese—such as the loanword accent rule, compound accent rules, and the accent rule for verbs and adjectives—can all be generalized.

In “Prominence Marking in the Japanese Intonation System,” Jennifer J. Venditti, Kikuo Maekawa, and Mary E. Beckman show that Japanese uses a variety of prosodic mechanisms to mark focal prominence, including local pitch range expansion, prosodic restructuring to set off the focal constituent, postfocal subordination, and prominence-lending boundary pitch movements, but (notably) not manipulation of accent. In this chapter, they describe the Japanese intonation (p. 12) system within the Autosegmental-Metrical model of intonational phonology and review these prosodic mechanisms that have been shown to mark focal prominence. They point out potentials for ambiguity in the prosodic parse and discuss their larger implications for the development of a tenable general theory of prosody and its role in the marking of discourse structure.

1.6.2 Acquisition, Sentence Processing, Information Structure, and Syntax-Semantics-Morphology

In “On the Causative Construction,” Heidi Harley shows that the analysis of the affixal Japanese causative morpheme -(s)ase requires an explicit treatment of the morphology-syntax interface, because it exhibits syntactic characteristics typical of both monoclausal and biclausal constructions, despite forming a single phonological word in combination with the verb stem to which it attaches. The arguments bearing on both lexicalist and syntacticocentric approaches are considered, and an articulated syntax-based treatment is presented. Additionally, the relationship between the lexical causatives and the productive causatives of Japanese is discussed in detail, and Harley argues that the allomorphic properties of the former support a Late Insertion approach to the syntax-phonology interface.

In “Japanese -Wa, -Ga, and Information Structure,” Caroline Heycock discusses two of the most long-standing interrelated issues in the synchronic study of Japanese: the interpretation of the “topic marker” wa and the “nominative/subject/ focus marker” ga. Descriptively, it appears that the former can have both contrastive and noncontrastive interpretations, and that the latter sometimes, but not always, expresses narrow focus. Similar patterns have been observed in languages where topic and focus are not marked morphologically; Japanese then may hold the key to a better understanding of these very contentious notions and, in particular, to the questions of how and why the different interpretations arise.

In “On Verb Raising,” Hideki Kishimoto discusses issues and controversies surrounding verb raising in Japanese by looking at the null-object construction, unusual coordination, and emphatic verbal sequences. In the null-object construction, overt verb raising is argued to take place alongside VP-ellipsis (Otani and Whitman 1991), and the unusual coordination is claimed to involve overt verb raising (Koizumi 1995, 2000). By contrast, it is claimed that the emphatic verbal construction signals the absence of overt verb raising (Sakai 1998, Aoyagi 1998). A number of counterarguments as well as some alternative views are advanced in the literature in response to these arguments, so the claims still remain highly controversial.

In “Nominative Object,” Masatoshi Koizumi presents a study of sentences in which the object is marked with the nominative case-marker ga (the nominative object construction). Such sentences contrast with prototypical transitive sentences where the subject and the object bear nominative and accusative cases, respectively. The nominative marking of objects is found in many languages of the (p. 13) world and has raised a number of important questions such as: (1) Is the nominative object really an object rather than a subject? (2) When does it occur? (3) Why does the nominative object tend to have wider scope compared with the accusative object?

In “Ga/No Conversion,” Hideki Maki and Asako Uchibori examine the two major approaches to the Japanese ga/no (nominative/genitive) conversion phenomenon: the DP approach by Miyagawa (1993) and Ochi (2001), and the non-DP approach by Hiraiwa (2001a). They compare the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and then suggest a refined analysis that incorporates ideas from both approaches. In the suggested analysis, D licenses the genitive Case as in the DP approach, but movement into Spec,DP is not involved in genitive Case licensing, as in the non-DP approach.

In “Processing Sentences in Japanese,” Edson T. Miyamoto discusses many of the major topics in sentence processing, including incremental processing of head-final constructions, clause-boundary ambiguities, implicit prosodic contours, relative clauses (attachment ambiguities, relativized position), wh-phrases, word order, and center embedding. A recurring theme is that the mechanisms and strategies used in processing are language independent (although some potential counterexamples are also discussed), so one crucial goal is to determine how seemingly distinct phenomena in typologically diverse languages can be subsumed under a unified account.

In “The Acquisition of Japanese Syntax,” Keiko Murasugi and Koji Sugisaki begin by noting that the theory of language acquisition attempts to answer the foundational question of how innate linguistic knowledge, or Universal Grammar (UG), interacts with linguistic experience to yield a particular grammar in the actual time course. They review some representative studies on the acquisition of Japanese that attempt to answer this question and hence have a direct bearing on the construction of the theory of language acquisition. These studies are discussed along the following theoretical dimensions: (1) early emergence of UG principles, (2) parameter (re)setting, (3) A-chain maturation, and (4) the acquisition of lexical items.

In “The Syntax and Semantics of Floating Numeral Quantifiers,” Kimiko Nakanishi looks at two competing views on floating numeral quantifiers (FNQs)—that is, numerals that appear away from their host NPs. One view holds that FNQs are transformationally derived from their nonfloating counterparts, whereas the other view assumes no transformational relation. The chapter compares the two by investigating how they fare with various syntactic and semantic properties of FNQs. In particular, at issue are distributional restrictions, such as why the object cannot intervene between the subject and its FNQ, and semantic restrictions, such as why FNQs permit distributive but not collective readings.

In “V-V Compounds,” Kunio Nishiyama discusses V-V compounds as a construction that has inspired the lexicon versus syntax debate for the place of morphology. Some major lexical and syntactic analyses are reviewed, and Nishiyama examines how they fare empirically with the main properties of V-V compounds. Basically, transitive-transitive combinations are rather easy to capture, (p. 14) but complications arise when one of the verbs is intransitive. To accommodate some idiosyncrasies of V-V compounds within the syntactic approach, principles of Distributed Morphology are invoked—in particular, the root-as-categorially-neutral hypothesis. The goal of the chapter is to examine the implications of V-V compounds for the organization of grammar.

In “Wh-Questions,” Norvin Richards considers some approaches to the syntax of Japanese wh-in-situ, contrasting movement with nonmovement accounts. The representative nonmovement account is Shimoyama's (2001), which gives Japanese wh-words a semantics that allows them to be interpreted in situ. The discussion of covert-movement approaches centers on the type first proposed by Nishigauchi (1986), with covert pied-piping of islands; the approach is modified, following von Stechow (1996), to allow subsequent reconstruction of the island. Data are drawn from conditions on the placement of ittai, quantifier intervention effects, multiple-wh questions, additional-wh effects, the distribution of mo, and semantic conditions on interpretation of pied-piped structures.

In “Indeterminate Pronouns,” Junko Shimoyama provides a survey on issues surrounding the so-called indeterminate pronouns in Japanese such as dare ‘who’ and nani ‘what’, of which similar counterparts are found cross-linguistically. It focuses on two contexts, interrogative and universal, which easily allow apparently long-distance association of indeterminates with the particles ka and mo. The chapter examines two major types of analyses for the association, the movement and nonmovement analyses, in light of questions concerning (1) what the semantics of indeterminates are, and how the appropriate sentential meaning can be derived from the syntactic structure; and (2) how the intriguing locality pattern found in the association should be dealt with.

In “Noun Phrase Ellipsis,” Daiko Takahashi presents an overview of the analysis of null arguments in Japanese in terms of ellipsis. The idea of “noun phrase ellipsis” was put forth in part to overcome certain difficulties faced by the traditional analysis based on empty pronouns. There are two main varieties of ellipsis analysis: one employs VP-ellipsis (Otani and Whitman 1991) and the other, more directly, NP-ellipsis (Oku 1998, Kim 1999). Although the former proposal is quite ingenious, this chapter shows that there are fairly strong arguments in favor of the latter. The NP-ellipsis analysis also has the possibility of relating the presence of null arguments to the free-word-order phenomenon (Oku 1998), which sheds a new light on the issue of (non-)configurationality.

In “Ditransitive Constructions,” Yuji Takano looks at the syntactic properties of the two objects in Japanese ditransitive constructions. One major issue he takes up is whether or not word-order alternation between the two objects is to be attributed to movement (scrambling). It is shown that various arguments have been presented in the literature in favor of both approaches. Given this, Takano suggests a possible way to unify the two approaches.

In “The Structure of DP,” Akira Watanabe looks at two peculiarities of Japanese nominals—namely, multiple possibilities for numeral placement and the existence of an indeterminate system. The internal structure of DP is explored by (p. 15) investigating the parametric sources of these two interesting characteristics. The possibility that emerges is that Japanese has more agreement relations within DP than has English and that the movement operations fed by these agreement relations produce the diversity of numeral placement. The indeterminate system is also shown to depend on agreement. Additionally, the behavior of nonnumeral quantifiers is taken up and compared with that of numerals.


Earlier versions of many of the chapters were presented at the Workshop on Linguistic Theory and the Japanese Language at the 2005 MIT—Harvard LSA Summer Institute. We thank the audience for numerous useful suggestions. We are grateful to the Japan Foundation, the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Science, as well as MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures for providing financial support for the workshop. We also wish to express our gratitude to the anonymous reviewers whose critical comments helped to strengthen the arguments in each of the chapters. This volume follows in the footsteps of The Handbook of Japanese Linguistics (1999) edited by Natsuko Tsujimura; the way we conceived this volume was greatly informed by the earlier work. Finally, we would like to thank the OUP editors for their enormous help, and Eli Laurençot for coordinating this complex project and providing expert copyediting for the entire volume, which made our editorial work enormously easier.


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(1.) The configurational analysis of Japanese is further developed in Saito 1985 and Hoji 1985.

(2.) We thank Junko Ito and Armin Mester for extensive assistance with this section on phonology.

(3.) The summaries of the chapters presented here are based on the abstracts written by the authors. Please see the reference sections of the individual chapters for the works cited in these summaries.