, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 205–237

The order of meaningful elements in the Japanese verbal complex

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11525-010-9150-9

Cite this article as:
Narrog, H. Morphology (2010) 20: 205. doi:10.1007/s11525-010-9150-9


This paper explores the order of meaningful elements in the Japanese verbal complex. The ‘verbal complex’ refers to the verbal predicate extended both by affixes and by morphologically independent items in periphrastic constructions, corresponding to auxiliaries in other languages. The main focus in this paper is on the relationship between the order of meaningful elements and semantic scope. It is shown that the order of meaningful elements overwhelmingly obeys semantic scope. Exceptions concern cases with scope ambiguity and cases where surface order is irrelevant because categories do not interact with each other. The study shows that although morphosyntactic restrictions on the combination of meaningful elements exist, these restrictions mostly conform to semantic scope, and where they do not, the restrictions can often be circumvented by the use of alternative constructions with light verbs and formal nouns. As a corollary of the investigation a scopal hierarchy of categories in the Japanese verbal complex is proposed.


Morpheme order Verbal complex Scope Scope ambiguity Modality Japanese 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GSICSTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan

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