LINGUIST List 24.740

Sat Feb 09 2013

Review: Syntax: Miyagawa (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 09-Feb-2013
From: Stella Markantonatou <>
Subject: Case, Argument Structure, and Word Order
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Shigeru MiyagawaTITLE: Case, Argument Structure, and Word OrderSERIES TITLE: Routledge Leading LinguistsPUBLISHER: RoutledgeYEAR: 2012

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


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

Japanese provides most of the empirical material and it is compared with anumber of languages (Dagur, English, Greek, Slavic, Turkish among others) inorder to discuss important theoretical issues of universal validity. The bookis organized as follows:1. Chapters 1 & 2: Stranding of nominal quantifiers: empirical evidence fora-movement and for the hypothesis of a predicate internal subject position2. Chapters 3 & 4 and Appendix: The ditransitive construction: universalvalidity of the dual goal analysis of ditransitive verbs; movement is featuredriven3. Chapters 5 & 6: Nominative-genitive alternation (in subject and objectposition): phase domains4. Chapters 7 & 8: Causative verbs: syntax versus lexicon5. Chapters 9 & 10: Evolution of accusative case marking in Japanese: therelation between universal grammar and language change.

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

Chapters 1 & 2

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

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

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

The mutual c-command condition combined with amovement-out-of-the-VP-and-trace analysis explains the differences in thebehavior of Japanese direct and indirect passives and of unergative andergative verbs as regards NQs. The direct passive construction allowsmodification 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 standsin a mutual c-command relation with the trace left behind (in the VP). Nomovement is involved in the indirect passive construction where an extraargument (the ‘experiencer’) is inserted. This explanation offers evidencefor an A-movement analysis of passive voice and of unaccusative constructions.

Furthermore, a telic aspectual interpretation of a sentence enables NQstranding with unergative intransitive predicates while a non telicinterpretation does not. Environments that induce a telic interpretation ofactivities have been argued to affect the subcategorisation properties ofactivity 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 predicateinternal subject position is visible under telic interpretation.’ TEA is astipulation. However, if it is combined with a grammaticalisation of aspect inthe vein of Borer 2005, it explains (i) inverse scope phenomena that areobserved with telic phrases, and (ii) why telic verb predicates of Japanese donot support resultatives (on the assumption that if a subcategorisation changehad 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 ditransitiveconstruction is fundamentally different from the English one. He proposes thatthe two languages share an important similarity, namely that there are twodative positions, a high and a low one: the double-object-construction (DOC)structure chooses the high position (the ‘high goal’) while the ‘to’ dativechooses the low one (the ‘low goal’). He brings evidence that in Japanese thehigh and the low goal can occur in the same sentence. He builds on Marantz1993, who argues that the English DOC involves a phonologically nullapplicative head V that explains the causation and possession effects observedwith 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 dataand binding phenomena.

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

Two challenges for the dual base analysis are discussed, drawing on recentresearch: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 explainsthat native speakers of Japanese overwhelmingly expect the verb to follow theaccusative 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 bringsevidence 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 subjectof temporal clauses is licensed by a weak v in combination with dependenttense, while in relative clauses (RCs) it is D(eterminer)-licensed. In thisframework, he argues that phase is defined by case rather than byuninterpretable agreement features.

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

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

Chapters 7 & 8

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

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

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

Recent work: The author abandons the idea that causatives are formed in thelexicon and adopts the One-Component Hypothesis in which causatives (of alltypes) 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’): ifthere is no specific instruction for pronouncing CAUSE, -sase is inserted2. -sase may be overridden by special formations (that is, when specificpronunciation instructions exist)

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

Chapters 9 & 10

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

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

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

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


An important merit of the book is that it is an excellent piece of scientificwriting, and in addition the author presents the arguments very clearly, as ifhe were teaching the material. The presentation of the topics as a debate thatfollows transformational theory through the years makes the book an excellentsource of information on the evolution of linguistic theory. Furthermore, eachindividual chapter can be read independently of the others and this enhancesthe readability and the usability of the book. Repetitions occur acrosschapters but are not redundant because they ensure chapter independence.

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

Furthermore, the reader is left with open questions as regards the treatmentof causatives. In Chapter 7 the author presents arguments that causatives arecreated 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 giveanswers to the questions raised in the detailed discussion presented inChapter 7. For instance, an explanation would be welcome as regards the waythat the new approach deals with the -sase/-sas allomorphy described inChapter 7 or a more explicit treatment of the binding facts that were thereason for assigning a dual subcategorisation feature to -sase.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Marantz, Alec. 1993. Implications of asymmetries in double objectconstructions. 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, Kenand Yongkyoon No (eds.). ESCOL ’89: Proceedings of the sixth annual meetingof the Eastern States Conference on Linguistics, pp. 264-276. Columbus: OhioState University.


Dr. Stella Markantonatou is a Principal Researcher with the Institute forLanguage and Speech Processing/R.C. Athena, Greece. Her research interests liein the study of the lexical semantics-syntax interface (mainly withinunification based formalisms) and the development of lexical databases forusage by humans and machines, especially for the Greek language. She has alsoworked on the development of corpus based Machine Translation systems.

Page Updated: 09-Feb-2013