Word Order, Heaviness, and Animacy

  • Satoshi ImamuraEmail author
Original Paper


In experiments, previous studies have observed that the choice of word order in Japanese is influenced not only by heaviness but also by animacy. To be more concrete, the heavy constituent tends to precede the light one and the animate referent tends to come before the inanimate one. Yet, the present corpus analysis demonstrates that word order changes are not motivated by animacy. This discrepancy can be accounted for by supposing that animacy has an impact on word order only when the effects of other factors are neutralized. It is possible that the effects of animacy are so weak that they work only in psycholinguistic experiments because other factors are controlled. On the other hand, the effects of animacy are not observed in this corpus study probably because other factors are not controlled in actual examples. Thus, I propose that researchers should utilize both naturalistic and experimental evidence in order to draw reasonable conclusions about the grammatical aspects of language.


Word order Heaviness Animacy Corpus analysis Japanese 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Children’s Life, Faculty of Children’s LifeUtsunomiya Kyowa UniversityUtsunomiyaJapan

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