Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 453-480

First online:

Conditions on Agreement in Japanese

  • Cedric BoeckxAffiliated withDept. of Linguistics, Harvard University
  • , Fumikazu NiinumaAffiliated withKochi Gakuen College

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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.