Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 453–480

Conditions on Agreement in Japanese


  • Cedric Boeckx
    • Dept. of LinguisticsHarvard University
  • Fumikazu Niinuma
    • Kochi Gakuen College

DOI: 10.1023/B:NALA.0000027669.59667.c5

Cite this article as:
Boeckx, C. & Niinuma, F. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory (2004) 22: 453. doi:10.1023/B:NALA.0000027669.59667.c5


This paper integrates Japanese object honorification within a larger cross-linguistic context, and provides a principled explanation for an otherwise puzzling property: the fact that direct object honorification is blocked in the presence of a dative argument. Following a well-established tradition in the generative literature, we regard honorification as a case of agreement, but, unlikeprevious approaches, which rely on Spec-Head configurations, we show that Chomsky's (2000) Agree mechanism suffices for (object) agreement to obtain. We argue that the blocking effect of dative elements is a reflex of a more general locality constraint, `defective intervention', proposed by Chomsky 2000. The analysis also provides a compelling argument in favor of taking the 〈indirect object; direct object〉 order in Japanese as basic, and against base-generation approaches to scrambling.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004