Split intransitivity in Japanese is syntactic: Evidence for the Unaccusative Hypothesis from sentence acceptability and truth value judgment experiments

Abstract

Split intransitivity (SI) is the generalization that intransitive verbs form two subclasses: the subjects of some intransitives behave like direct objects of transitive verbs, whereas the subjects of other intransitives behave like transitive subjects. The Unaccusative Hypothesis (UH) accounts for SI syntactically, arguing that the subjects of some intransitives (unaccusatives) are initially internal arguments, just like transitive objects, while the subjects of other intransitives (unergatives) are true subjects, just like transitive subjects. The UH has been enormously influential and inspired a rich and diverse literature on SI, including many recent experimental studies. Yet, no conclusive evidence for or against the UH has been put forward, largely because SI diagnostics (SIDs) – phenomena that motivate SI – are often amenable to both syntactic and non-syntactic analyses. In order to present unequivocal evidence for the UH, therefore, SIDs that make crucial reference to the UH must be carefully identified and studied. This study argues that two Japanese SIDs, quantifier scope and floating numeral quantifier licensing (FNQ-licensing), are such SIDs, as (i) they make crucial reference to the UH and the putative syntactic difference between unaccusative and unergative subjects, and (ii) they reliably classify Japanese intransitive verbs into two subclasses because of a syntactic difference. The evidence for this claim comes from the results of truth value judgment and sentence acceptability judgment experiments. The study argues that the results of these experiments show that Japanese intransitive verbs form two subclasses because of a syntactic difference, supporting the UH. 

Keywords

split intransitivity, Unaccusative Hypothesis, floating quantifiers, quantifier scope, Japanese, experimental syntax

How to Cite

Fukuda, S., (2017) “Split intransitivity in Japanese is syntactic: Evidence for the Unaccusative Hypothesis from sentence acceptability and truth value judgment experiments”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1): 83. doi: https://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.268

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Shin Fukuda (University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa)

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