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The postposing construction in Japanese Rosen, Eric Robert


This work examines the syntactic nature of the postposing construction in Japanese, which is a construction commonly heard in casual conversation, in which a constituent of the sentence occurs to the right of the matrix verb, outside of its canonical position. This construction appears to violate a strict condition in Japanese on the linear ordering of constituents within a phrase: namely, that all constituents of a maximal projection must precede the head of the projection. The questions I seek to answer about the postposing construction are as follows: 1. Does a postposed phrase have a syntactic relationship with the rest of the sentence or is it a mere "afterthought" to the sentence. 2. Does the postposing construction obey syntactic constraints? 3. If postposed phrases are a syntactic phenomenon, are they derived by movement or by base-generation? 4. Why does the postposing construction appear to violate the "left-attaching" nature of Japanese linear precedence? The framework of my analysis is "classical" government-binding theory of the 1980's and early 1990's; I also draw on some of the approaches of the Minimalist programme of Chomsky (1995). The data I use are native-speaker judgements of postposed Japanese sentences. The main conclusions I come to about the postposing construction are as follows: 1. There are syntactic constraints on postposed phrases to the extent that we can only explain postposing as a syntactic phenomenon rather than as an afterthought: for example: (a) Postposed phrases show evidence that they are subject to subjacencylike effects. (b) Traces of postposed phrases show evidence of a head-government licensing requirement. 2. Postposed phrases show Condition C reconstruction effects which are most easily explained by movement of the postposed phrase. 3. The unique nature of postposed phrases as sole exception to the strict left-attaching nature of Japanese can be explained by the uniqueness of the position that they occur in: I post that they are right-adjoined to the root node of the sentence. Under the minimalist framework of Chomsky (1995), a position adjoined to the root node is the only position that is not in the minimal domain of a head.

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