The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG special session 3/16 - Masa Yamada

Speaker: Masa Yamada (University of Kyoto/University of Chicago)
Date/Time: 3/16 (Friday) 3:30-5 pm (Note unusual time)
Location: 32-D831
Title: Reciprocal and Pluraction in Japanese


Numerous languages employ a morpheme that signals plurality, distributivity, or pluractionality to describe real world reciprocal situations. The Japanese verbal suffix -aw has reciprocal and non-reciprocal pluraction uses, but the previous studies only focus on the former use. I will propose two type-shift variants for the lexical meaning of the suffix and argue that the two uses are due to some sort of structural ambiguity in the verbal projection. When it combines with a semantic transitive predicate (i.e. a relation between two individuals), the canonical reciprocal interpretation obtains; when it combines with a semantic intransitive predicate (i.e. a property of individual, a context sensitive pluraction meaning results. I will also demonstrate that the proposed analysis of the verbal reciprocal correctly captures its interaction with other verbal suffixes such as causative and applicative. This is a formal case study of the widely observed phenomenon of (seemingly) polysemy of a linguistic reciprocal expression.