The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 10/3 - Hisashi Morita

Speaker: Hisashi Morita (Aichi Prefectural University, current MIT visiting scholar)
Title: Morphology is misleading, but syntax is not: The Syntax of Coordination in
Japanese and Korean

Date/Time: Monday, October 3, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

My talk presents a somehow unnoticed but simple analysis of coordination involving coordinating particles such as ka ‘or’, mo ‘and’, and toka ‘and/or’ in Japanese and to ‘also’ and (i)na ‘or’ in Korean. Analysis of coordinating phrases in Japanese and Korean has been controversial. For example, Johannessen (1996) proposes the following structure for a disjunction phrase such as Ken-ka Mary ‘Ken or Mary’:

(1) [CoP [Co’ Ken [Co KA]] Mary]

There are several problems with a structure such as (1). First, it assumes a right-branching specifier, which is either non-existent or extremely rare, if any. Secondly, if coordinators such as ka and mo represent disjunction and conjunction respectively as in or and and in English, one instance of ka and mo should be sufficient when there are two disjuncts or conjuncts, but as in (2), two (identical) particles appear when coordinating two phrases, the phenomenon of which is called conjunction (or disjunction) doubling:

(2)a. Ken-KA Mary(-KA)-ga kita.
-or (-or) -Nom
‘Ken or Mary came.’

b. Ken-MO Mary-MO kita.
came -and -and came
‘Both Ken and Mary came.’

As far as I know, no existing accounts have successfully explained why two coordinators are necessary in Japanese and Korean.

The third problem is concerned with difference between Japanese and Korean. It has been known that when ka, a disjunction particle, merges with a wh-element in Japanese, an existential quantifier follows, such as dare-ka (who-or) ‘someone’. However, in Korean, if the disjunction particle, (i)na, follows a wh-element, a free choice is generated. The last problem is how the same coordinator, i.e. toka, can mean conjunction or disjunction in Japanese as follow:

(3) Ken-ga hon-o go-satu-TOKA roku-satu-TOKA yonda.
-Nom book-Acc five-Cl-toka six-Cl-toka read
‘Ken read sets of books of five and six and more.’
‘Ken read five or six books.’

The problems above can be straightforwardly explained once we assume that the structure of coordination consists of two projections: CoP and FocP, and the particles we hear may not be real coordinators (i.e. not carrying semantic functions), but simply agreement reflexes.