The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Phonology circle returns next week  

Phonology circle will return next week, after the Thanksgiving holiday break.

Upcoming schedule:

Nov 30 Sverre Johnsen
Dec 7 Maria Giavazzi

Stay up to date! Check out the online schedule, or subscribe via iCal


Syntax-Semantics Reading Group 11/23: Micha Breakstone  

The syntax-semantics reading group is meeting on Monday at 11:30am in room 32-D461. Micha Breakstone will talk about Measure Phrase licensing and Evaluativity using Vector Space Semantics.


East Asian Linguistics Seminar 11/24: Nobuko Hasegawa  

Nobuko Hasegawa of Kanda U of Int’l Studies will guest lecture in the East Asian Linguistics Seminar this week: Tuesday, November 24, @ Harvard, Boylston 303, 11AM (not 10AM) - 1PM. (Note also that Mamoru Saito will guest lecture Tuesday, December 1, @MIT, 66-156, 10 AM (not 11AM) - 1PM.

“Person Agreement and Subject Ellipsis at the CP Level”
Nobuko Hasegawa (Kanda University of International Studies)

Japanese has been considered as a non-agreement language unlike English and other European languages (cf. Kuroda 1988, Fukui 1986). It is in fact not easy to convincingly argue that Japanese exhibits agreement between the subject and the predicate at the IP level (or in embedded sentences). In this presentation, however, I will show that Japanese does exhibit rather extensive agreement processes between the subject and the predicate, once matrix phenomena are taken into consideration, such as Imperatives and Volitionals. I will resort to Rizzi’s (1997) CP system to account for these phenomena. That is, the sentential Force (Clause Type) marked at the CP projection, such as Imp(erative), Vol(itional), requires a particular predicate form, which in turn requires (or agree with) a particular type of a subject, [+Addressee], [+Speaker], respectively. With such agreement, the subject can be null.

I will then extend this analysis to other null subject cases, which I will argue result from agreement at CP level. One is the 1st person deletion phenomenon, which is allowed only at the matrix subject. The other case is PRO in infinitives, whose interpretation is also tied with the structure of CP, as pointed out in Borer (1989) (cf. (5)). Our analysis of PRO provides an account for an interesting (and novel) fact of matrix arbitrary PRO in Japanese. Based on these cases, I claim that a null subject is allowed only when Force of the CP requires a particular predicate form that agrees with a particular person of subject.

If the analysis proposed is on the right track, we seem to come up with a picture quite different from what has been assumed in the GB framework with respect to null subject phenomena in general. Null subject phenomena are relevant to what a head of the CP level specifies and even pro of null subject languages (NSLs) may be analyzed in a similar way, if the predicate (or Infl) is supposed to communicate with CP, as often has been assumed. Then, a null subject is not special to NSLs but is to be observed in more prevalent environments where the function of a CP is more apparent, namely, at the matrix level.


  • Hasegawa, Nobuko. 2009. Agreement at the CP Level: Clause Types and the ‘Person’ Restriction on the Subject. The proceedings of the Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics 5: 131-152. MITWPL, MIT.
  • Portner, Paul. 2004. The Semantics of Imperatives within a Theory of Clause Types. ms. Georgetown University.
  • Rizzi, Luigi. 1997. The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery. In L. Haegeman (ed.) Elements of Grammar: Handbook of Generative Syntax. 281-331. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Ueda, Yukiko. 2009. Person Restriction on C in Japanese , The proceedings of the Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics 5, MITWPL, MIT.

Readings: Hasegawa 2009, Portner 2004


Shigeru Miyagawa on MIT News site  

A very nice article about Shigeru Miyagawa’s new book appeared last Friday on the MIT news site.