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Wh -constructions in Japanese

Junko Shimoyama, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation investigates the syntax and semantics of two types of wh-constructions in Japanese. One is the construction that involves so-called “indeterminate phrases”, such as dare ‘who’ and nani ‘what’. The other is what is known as the “internally headed relative clause construction”. In both of these wh-constructions, association of two non-local positions in a sentence takes place. The association has been most commonly analyzed in terms of invisible movement. This dissertation reexamines this assumption. Indeterminate phrases differ from English wh-phrases in that they occur in the universal construction as well. Previous studies have put primary focus on indeterminate phrases in the interrogative construction, and tried to extend their analysis to the universal construction. Chapter 2 shows that examining the universal construction provides a new window on the nature of association between indeterminate phrases and the question particle ka and the universal particle mo. As a consequence of a proposed semantics of the universal construction, a uniform analysis of the two constructions emerges that does not involve English-type wh-movement. It has been a long-standing puzzle that the association between indeterminate phrases and ka and mo can take place across islands for movement, except for wh-islands. This presents a challenge to any movement theory. The analysis presented in this chapter allows a switch of perspective on this long-standing puzzle, and the puzzle is shown to follow from the interpretative process. Chapter 3 examines the internally headed relative clause construction, with particular focus on new data that involve quantificational NPs and indeterminate phrases. The data provide arguments for representations in which the internal head remains internal at LF. Furthermore, it is shown that a kind of “argument sharing” observed in this construction is better analyzed in terms of anaphora rather than in terms of movement. Evidence is presented that the interpretation of this construction involves E-type anaphora in particular. An explicit mechanism for compositional interpretation is proposed, which also derives a restriction on possible internal heads. This study has the cross-linguistic implication that the constructions called “internally headed relative clauses” in various languages do not form a homogeneous class.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Shimoyama, Junko, "Wh -constructions in Japanese" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3000346.