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LINGUIST List 24.740

Sat Feb 09 2013

Review: Syntax: Miyagawa (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 09-Feb-2013
From: Stella Markantonatou < marksilsp.gr">stellamarkantonatouyahoo.com, marksilsp.gr>
Subject: Case, Argument Structure, and Word Order
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2332.html

AUTHOR: Shigeru Miyagawa
TITLE: Case, Argument Structure, and Word Order
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Leading Linguists
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2012

Stella Markantonatou, Institute for Language and Speech Processing, Research
Center “Athena”, Athens, Greece


The book is a monograph comprising ten chapters that have been written or
reworked for the book’s purposes. Five challenging topics are discussed, each
one with a pair of chapters. The book can be read as an ongoing debate because
the second chapter of each pair always presents work that takes into account
the discussion on the topic as well as findings and developments of linguistic
theory that have occurred since the publication of the first chapter.

Japanese provides most of the empirical material and it is compared with a
number of languages (Dagur, English, Greek, Slavic, Turkish among others) in
order to discuss important theoretical issues of universal validity. The book
is organized as follows:
1. Chapters 1 & 2: Stranding of nominal quantifiers: empirical evidence for
a-movement and for the hypothesis of a predicate internal subject position
2. Chapters 3 & 4 and Appendix: The ditransitive construction: universal
validity of the dual goal analysis of ditransitive verbs; movement is feature
3. Chapters 5 & 6: Nominative-genitive alternation (in subject and object
position): phase domains
4. Chapters 7 & 8: Causative verbs: syntax versus lexicon
5. Chapters 9 & 10: Evolution of accusative case marking in Japanese: the
relation between universal grammar and language change.

The Introduction is very helpful both for the creation of the right
expectations about what follows and for a quick summary.

Chapters 1 & 2

The study of the environments where Japanese nominal quantifiers (NQs) can be
separated from their antecedents lends support to two central claims of the
Minimalist Program: (i) direct passives and unaccusatives involve A-movement
(from object to subject position) and, (ii) the existence of a predicate
internal subject position (movement from predicate internal subject position
to Spec,TP position).

Japanese NQs are formed by combining a numeral with a classifier that
identifies the semantic class of the modified noun. Two classifiers which
illustrate the phenomenon are ‘nin’: human beings, and ‘ko’: small objects of
roughly equivalent extension in all three dimensions, such as fruits, candies
and stones; also coins [general inanimate classifier, for some speakers].

Japanese NQs are normally adjacent to the modified noun phrase (NP) (“the NQ’s
antecedent” in the author’s terminology) but, in certain environments they can
be separated from it. The author argues that the patterns of NQ-NP occurrences
are governed by the “mutual c-command condition” that dictates that ‘The NQ
and the modified NP (or its trace) mutually c-command each other.’

The mutual c-command condition combined with a
movement-out-of-the-VP-and-trace analysis explains the differences in the
behavior of Japanese direct and indirect passives and of unergative and
ergative verbs as regards NQs. The direct passive construction allows
modification of the subject by an NQ that is within the verb phrase (VP)
because the NP has moved (from object to subject position) and the NQ stands
in a mutual c-command relation with the trace left behind (in the VP). No
movement is involved in the indirect passive construction where an extra
argument (the ‘experiencer’) is inserted. This explanation offers evidence
for an A-movement analysis of passive voice and of unaccusative constructions.

Furthermore, a telic aspectual interpretation of a sentence enables NQ
stranding with unergative intransitive predicates while a non telic
interpretation does not. Environments that induce a telic interpretation of
activities have been argued to affect the subcategorisation properties of
activity predicates in a number of languages including English and Japanese
(Levin & Rappaport Hovav 1995, Tsujimura 1989). The author introduces the
“Telicity and the external argument (TEA)” hypothesis that accounts for (1)
and (2) without a change of the subcategorisation properties of the verbs:
‘Once the external argument moves to Spec,TP, its lower copy in the predicate
internal subject position is visible under telic interpretation.’ TEA is a
stipulation. However, if it is combined with a grammaticalisation of aspect in
the vein of Borer 2005, it explains (i) inverse scope phenomena that are
observed with telic phrases, and (ii) why telic verb predicates of Japanese do
not support resultatives (on the assumption that if a subcategorisation change
had occurred, resultatives would be possible in principle).

Chapters 3 & 4 and the Appendix to Chapter 4

The author challenges the established view that the Japanese ditransitive
construction is fundamentally different from the English one. He proposes that
the two languages share an important similarity, namely that there are two
dative positions, a high and a low one: the double-object-construction (DOC)
structure chooses the high position (the ‘high goal’) while the ‘to’ dative
chooses the low one (the ‘low goal’). He brings evidence that in Japanese the
high and the low goal can occur in the same sentence. He builds on Marantz
1993, who argues that the English DOC involves a phonologically null
applicative head V that explains the causation and possession effects observed
with the DOC (‘John gave Mary a book’) but not with the ‘to’ dative structure
(‘John gave a book to Mary’).

Two word orders, theme-low goal & and low-goal theme (the dual base analysis)
are established as base-generated drawing on idioms, -kata nominalization data
and binding phenomena.

Lastly, the theme cannot scramble across the high goal. A two-fold explanation
is offered: (i) the applicative head is not associated with an EPP feature,
therefore it cannot attract any constituent, including the theme -- this
explanation is supported by Greek data (Anagnostopoulou 2003), and (ii) a
locality constraint. The conclusion is that movement is not entirely free but
rather feature-driven.

Two challenges for the dual base analysis are discussed, drawing on recent
1. Experimental evidence shows that reaction times for the -ni-o (DAT-ACC)
structure are shorter than for the -o-ni (ACC-DAT) one: the author explains
that native speakers of Japanese overwhelmingly expect the verb to follow the
accusative NP-o, an expectation that is not borne out by an NP-ni.
2. The ACC-DAT base order is reserved for idioms only: the author brings
evidence that the DAT-ACC order can be observed in non-idiom data.

Chapters 5 & 6

Contra to a C-licensing approach, the author argues that the genitive subject
of temporal clauses is licensed by a weak v in combination with dependent
tense, while in relative clauses (RCs) it is D(eterminer)-licensed. In this
framework, he argues that phase is defined by case rather than by
uninterpretable agreement features.

An RC with a genitive subject is a defective Tense Phrase (TP) unable to
assign nominative case, therefore D’ ‘sees through it’ and assigns genitive
case. Evidence for a defective TP is brought by binding and movement facts.
Evidence that RCs are TPs is offered by adverbial distribution: according to
Cinque 1999, adverbial distribution distinguishes the CP region (adverbials
such as ‘honestly’, ‘unfortunately’, ‘evidently’) from the lower regions
(adverbials such as ‘probably’).

Next the author argues that the genitive subjects of argument temporal clauses
are licensed by a weak v in combination with dependent tense (the ‘Genitive of
dependent tense (GDT) constraint’). Dependent tense is a phenomenon that
occurs with subordinate clauses where the semantic content of tense in the
subordinate clause is determined “in relation to structurally higher tenses”
(p. 158). He suggests that this genitive is similar to the Slavic genitive of
negation that occurs on internal arguments only. Support for the GDT is
offered by scope phenomena and the genitive objects of (Japanese) transitive
stative predicates.

Chapters 7 & 8

The locus of -sase causative formation, i.e. lexicon or syntax, and the
phenomenon of blocking are the main issues.

Earlier work: In Japanese, there are two causative morphemes that attach to a
verb stem in the lexicon giving formations of the type V-sas and V-sase/V-sas
where the second -sas is considered by the author to be an allomorph of -sase
and not identical to the first -sas. He explains the phenomenon of blocking in
Japanese causative verb formation as follows: Every verb that receives an
entry in the permanent lexicon must enter a slot in what the author terms
‘Paradigmatic Structure (PDS)’ that has three slots, Intransitive, Transitive
and Ditransitive. Each slot may accommodate only one verb. A verb stem, being
the morphologically simplest form, automatically enters a PDS slot. A
derivative verb is blocked from the PDS if a simple verb stem already occupies
the corresponding slot. Crucially, such a derivative is not blocked from the
language. A V-sase enters PDS unless blocked by a simple verb or by V-sas as
shown by nominalization, idioms and adversity causatives data.

V-sase behaves both as a word and a complex structure (it allows for an
ambiguous interpretation of ‘zibun’) a fact that undermines the hypothesis
that causatives are formed in the lexicon. In response, the author assumes
that V-sase is always associated with two subcategorization features, one with
only NPs, the other having an S in addition. Both these features are
projected into the syntax, one resulting in a simplex structure, the other in
a complex one. Evidence for the complex structure of -sase is provided by
honorification data.

Recent work: The author abandons the idea that causatives are formed in the
lexicon and adopts the One-Component Hypothesis in which causatives (of all
types) are formed in the syntax. He draws on work on Distributed Morphology
(Halle & Marantz 1993). The overall approach is the following:
1. -sase is the default causative morpheme (an ‘elsewhere causative’): if
there is no specific instruction for pronouncing CAUSE, -sase is inserted
2. -sase may be overridden by special formations (that is, when specific
pronunciation instructions exist)

This approach explains the existence of irregular causatives, the phenomenon
of blocking and the dual syntactic behaviour of V-sase constructions.

Chapters 9 & 10

The author examines the evolution of the assignment of the Japanese accusative
case marking -o, argues that -o is a D-structure case marker, and concludes
that language change is controlled by universal grammar principles.

He compares textual evidence covering a span from the 8th century to the 16th
century. He concludes that in Old Japanese (OJ), the conclusive form of the
verb assigned abstract case while the case assigning feature of the
attributive form had to be manifested overtly as -o or by head incorporation
with simple nouns. Adjacency was required for abstract case assignment while
the overt case marker -o relaxed requirements on strict word order.

The conclusive form was gradually abandoned and the attributive form took over
and imposed its case assignment requirements. This language change was mainly
motivated by the widely used ‘kakarimusubi rule’ that converts a matrix
conclusive form to an attributive one. The overall change fits well with Case
Theory and the principles of Universal Grammar.

Thus, Japanese went from abstract case marking to overt case marking as
regards accusative case. English followed the opposite path: the rich Germanic
case marking system developed into today’s English that lacks morphological
case marking almost completely.


An important merit of the book is that it is an excellent piece of scientific
writing, and in addition the author presents the arguments very clearly, as if
he were teaching the material. The presentation of the topics as a debate that
follows transformational theory through the years makes the book an excellent
source of information on the evolution of linguistic theory. Furthermore, each
individual chapter can be read independently of the others and this enhances
the readability and the usability of the book. Repetitions occur across
chapters but are not redundant because they ensure chapter independence.

One might feel a bit skeptical about some of the data and the judgments about
them, in the sense that they might be too marginal or too far-fetched. Some of
the data are crucial for the approaches advocated in the book. A discussion
about the method used to collect these data would be helpful.

Furthermore, the reader is left with open questions as regards the treatment
of causatives. In Chapter 7 the author presents arguments that causatives are
created in the lexicon and in Chapter 8 that they are created in the syntax.
One would expect that the new approach presented in Chapter 8 would give
answers to the questions raised in the detailed discussion presented in
Chapter 7. For instance, an explanation would be welcome as regards the way
that the new approach deals with the -sase/-sas allomorphy described in
Chapter 7 or a more explicit treatment of the binding facts that were the
reason for assigning a dual subcategorisation feature to -sase.

Overall, ‘Case, argument structure, and word order’ is a collection of
insightful and data-rich analyses of challenging phenomena in Japanese (and in
other languages) within the theoretical framework of Minimalism. It is an
excellent specimen of well informed and meticulously built linguistic analysis
in the generative tradition. The work goes beyond the limits of the study of
an individual language being, in fact, a study about universal grammar. In
this sense, the book is a source of inspiration for students and researchers
of linguistics of every theoretical persuasion and linguistic background.


Anagnostopoulou, Elena. 2003. The syntax of ditransitives. Berlin: Mouton de

Borer, Hagit. 2005. The normal course of events. Oxford, New York: Oxford
University Press.

Cinque, Guglielmo. 1999. Adverbs and functional heads. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Halle, Morris & Marantz, Alec. 1993. Distributed morphology and the pieces of
inflection. In Hale, Kenneth & Keyser, Samuel Jay (eds.). The view from
Building 20: Essays in honor of Sylvain Bromberger, pp. 117-176. Cambridge,
Mass: MIT Press.

Levin, Beth & Rappaport Hovav, Malka. 1995. Unaccusativity: At the
syntax-lexical semantics interface. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Marantz, Alec. 1993. Implications of asymmetries in double object
constructions. In Mchombo, Sam (ed.). Theoretical aspects of Bantu grammar, p.
113-150. Stanford, Calif.: CSLI Publications.

Tsujimura, Natsuko. 1989. Unaccusative mismatches in Japanese. In DeJong, Ken
and Yongkyoon No (eds.). ESCOL ’89: Proceedings of the sixth annual meeting
of the Eastern States Conference on Linguistics, pp. 264-276. Columbus: Ohio
State University.


Dr. Stella Markantonatou is a Principal Researcher with the Institute for
Language and Speech Processing/R.C. Athena, Greece. Her research interests lie
in the study of the lexical semantics-syntax interface (mainly within
unification based formalisms) and the development of lexical databases for
usage by humans and machines, especially for the Greek language. She has also
worked on the development of corpus based Machine Translation systems.
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