Context and Binding in Japaneseby Masayo Iida

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  • Context and Binding in Japanese by Masayo IidaReview by: Natsuko TsujimuraThe Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Apr., 1997), pp. 69-77Published by: American Association of Teachers of JapaneseStable URL: .Accessed: 17/06/2014 10:41

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    that possessed the imagination of the city of Edo in pre-modern times entrance new generations of children every evening on the television or in

    storybooks. Far more people have seen or heard versions of the folktales

    Yanagita collected than have seen Akira. Whatever one's political disposition, Napier's book provides a major focal point for the discussion of

    postwar Japanese literature and its relation to "reality."

    CONTEXT AND BINDING IN JAPANESE, by Masayo Iida. Stanford: CSLI Publications, 1996. xiii + 374 pp. $49.95 (cloth) ISBN: 1-88152675-5, $22.95 (paper) ISBN: 1-88152674-7.

    Reviewed by Natsuko Tsujimura

    Given the large number of previous analyses proposed for the Japanese reflexive word zibun it would be a reasonable reaction to yet another to wonder whether there can be anything new in data and in analysis that could be more than just a notational variant of some past approach.' Even for those who share such a reaction, lida's Context and Binding in Japanese, a revised version of her 1992 Ph.D dissertation (Stanford University), presents a refreshing range of data and theoretical claims. While previous analyses of zibun are roughly divided into either syntactic or semantic/discourse, lida proposes an original theory that cuts across the two areas by applying syntactic and discourse conditions conjunctively. By "conjunctive" application she means that both syntactic and semantic/discourse conditions should apply to every occurrence of zibun rather than considering a syntactic condition as primarily restricting the

    interpretation with a semantic/discourse condition as its occasional

    supplement. Particularly comprehensive in this book is the notion of deictic perspective, which is the central tenet of her discourse constraint that subsumes familiar notions like point of view, empathy, and logophoricity. The elaborate investigation carried out in lida's book is the kind of work that the field of Japanese linguistics has long awaited.

    lida's book consists of eight chapters, followed by a list of references, an author index, and a subject index. lida starts out in Chapter 1 by briefly showing that the zibun interpretation is bound to a syntactic condition. She then concisely overviews relevant semantic notions such as non-reportive style, direct representation of the referent's internal feeling, empathy, and

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  • 70 1 VOLUME 31, NUMBER 1

    logophoricity. She states that the goal of the book is to investigate the interaction of syntactic and semantic/discourse conditions on zibun.

    Contrary to the previous approaches, she proposes the conjunctive application of the two types of conditions on zibun. Her analysis also

    departs significantly from most previous works in that zibun is treated as a

    pronoun rather than an anaphor.

    Chapter 2 reviews previous syntactic and semantic approaches, all of which share the problematic aspect that arises from a disjunctive application of conditions. lida demonstrates the problem with abundant examples. For instance, the distribution of zibun in the copula construction as in (1-2) has received little attention in previous analyses but casts serious doubt on a

    disjunctive application of the well-known subject condition. In neither

    example is the subject the antecedent ofzibun.

    (1) Zibuni ga sippaisita koto ga Tarooi self NOM failed COMP NOM Taroo

    no byooki no genin da.

    GEN sickness GEN cause COPULA

    (lit.) 'That hei failed is the cause of Tarooi's sickness.'

    (2) Hanako, no ziman wa zibuni no

    Hanako GEN pride TOP self GEN

    musuko da.

    son COPULA

    'Hanakoi's pride is her son.' (p.24)

    This chapter presents a thorough overview of previous approaches, and in particular the summary of semantic approaches which revolve around notions such as empathy, logophoricity, and point of view is comprehensive and extremely helpful.

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    Chapter 3 is devoted to the more theoretical issue as to why the

    disjunctive approach is not suitable for zibun binding. lida gives two reasons. First, as Howard and Niyekawa-Howard (1976) observe, when two instances of zibun occur in a sentence, the potential four-way ambiguity is

    actually restricted to only a two-way ambiguity. Consider their example in (3).

    (3) Tarooi wa Hanako ga zibun no

    Taroo TOP Hanako NOM self GEN

    heya de zibun no

    room in self GEN

    sigoto o siteita to itta. work ACC was-doing COMP said

    'Tarooi said that Hanako, was doing hisi work in his, room.'

    'Tarooisaid that Hanakoi was doing herj work in herj room.'

    *'Tarooi said that Hanakoj was doing hisi work in heri room.'

    *'Tarooi said that Hanako. was doing herj work in his, room.'

    (Howard and Niyekawa-Howard (1976))

    The question as to why two occurrences ofzibun must be bound by the same antecedent cannot be answered by a syntactic condition alone that restricts the antecedent to the subject. Even if both the syntactic subject condition and a discourse condition, such as a logophoric condition, are both available, the question still remains unanswered as long as they apply disjunctively. That is, nothing can prevent the two instances of zibun from

    picking up different antecedents.2

    This problem with multiple zibun, futhermore, gets worse when the

    syntactic subject condition interacts with a discourse condition that could allow non-subjects to bind zibun. This is illustrated in (4).

    (4) Tarooi wa zibun ga zibun o bengodekinakatta Taroo TOP self NOM self ACC defend-could-not

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  • 72 VOLUME 31, NUMBER I

    koto ga Zirooj no syusse o COMP NOM Ziroo GEN promotion ACC

    samatageta koto ni mattaku kizuiteinai. blocked COMP DAT at all notice-not

    'Tarooi has not noticed at all the fact that hei couldn't defend himselfi blocked Zirooi's promotion.' he. couldn't defend himself blocked Ziroo 's promotion.'

    *hei couldn't defend himj blocked Zirooi's promotion.'

    *hei couldn't defend himi blocked Ziroo1's promotion.' (p.86)

    In this example, too, both occurrences of zibun must refer to the same antecedent. It is clear that the subject condition is necessary to account for the first reading while the discourse condition would allow the antecedent to be a non-subject in the second interpretation. The disjunctive application of these conditions, however, could no way explain why one occurrence of zibun picks Taroo as its antecedent and the other Ziroo, and vice versa.

    Second, the interaction of zibun and deictic expressions reveals that the antecedent of zibun tends to correspond with a particular perspective triggered by the deictic expression. An example of this tendency is shown in (5).

    (5) a. Tarooi ga Hanakoj ni zibunilj no nimotu o

    Taroo Nom Hanako DAT self GEN uggage ACC



    'Tarooimade Hanakoj put hisi/herj luggage down.'

    b. Tarooi ga Hanako. ni teeburu no migigawai ni

    Taroo NOM Hanako DAT table GEN right on

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    zibuni/,j no nimotu o okaseta.

    self GEN luggage ACC made-put

    'Tarooimade Hanakoj put hisi/??herj luggage down on hisi right of the table.'

    The causative verbal morphology suggests that Hanako is considered as the underlying subject, and hence the ambiguity is observed in (5a). (5b), which is structurally almost identical to (5a) in relevant respects, exhibits a more restricted interpretation because, according to lida, the deictic word

    migigawa 'on the right of' is expressed from Taroo's perspective and the antecedent of zibun has a strong preference for the individual whose

    perspective is adopted in the deictic interpretation. The disjunctive approach would predict the same degree of ambiguity in (5b) as in (5a).

    After defending the conjunctive approach, Iida demonstrates in

    Chapters 4 and 5 how the syntactic and discourse conditions should be stated and how the conjunctive application of these conditions captures zibun-binding. One of the major contributions in Chapter 4 is her proposal for a weakened version of a syntactic condition. Based on the observation that the types of arguments for which a predicate subcategorizes (the obliqueness hierarchy and argument vs. adjunct) play an important role, Iida claims that the syntactic condition, stated over argument structure, should restrict the coargument relationship between zibun and its antecedent.3 More specifically, when zibun and its antecedent are

    coarguments of a predicate, zibun may not be less oblique than its antecedent, and this is all that syntax needs to specify. This syntactic condition makes a correct prediction for the following examples.

    (6) *Zibuni ga Hanakoi ni Ziroo no muzitu

    self NOM Hanako DAT Ziroo GEN innocence

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  • 74 VOLUME 31, NUMBER I

    o satosita.

    ACC made-realize

    (lit.) 'Self, tried to make Hanakoi realize Ziroo's innocence.' (='Hanakoi tried to make herselfi realize Ziroo's innocence.')


    (7) Zibuni no zitu no musuko ga Tarooi self GEN real GEN son NOM Taroo

    o kurusimeteiru

    ACC annoy

    'Hisi own son annoys Taroo,' (p. 117)

    (8) Zibuni ga Tarooi ni-totte yuiitu no tayori da.

    self NOM Taroo for only GEN reliance is

    (lit.) 'Selfi is only reliable to Taroo..' (p. 117)

    (9) Mary ga zibuni o hihansita koto ga Johni o

    Mary NOM self ACC accused COMP NOM John ACC



    'That Mary accused himi bowled Johni over.'


    (6) represents a violation of the syntactic condition: zibun is the subject while its antecedent is the indirect object, and since subject is less oblique than indirect object, the binding cannot hold. (7-9) are grammatical

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    because in each case zibun and its antecedent are not coarguments of the

    predicate: either zibun or its antecedent is not a subcategorized argument in

    (7-8), and they belong to different predicates in (9). This condition greatly reduces the role of syntax, and yet it singles out a crucial syntactic property of the zibun-binding. It is also significantly different from previous analyses in that it eliminates any reference to subjecthood in the syntactic domain while avoiding difficulties with non-subject antecedents as in (7-9) above.

    Parts of Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 are devoted to an elaborated discussion of the discourse condition. Capturing the basic nature of zibun as

    being deictic, lida argues that relevant to the discourse condition is "deictic

    perspective": the speaker is free to choose a particular perspective from which s/he describes a given event, but the discourse condition puts a constraint on the zibun-binding that the antecedent of zibun correspond to the speaker's chosen perspective. lida demonstrates that the conjunctive application of the syntactic and discourse conditions can elegantly account for a wide range of otherwise problematic data. One of the intriguing effects of her approach is illustrated by the following contrast.

    (10) *Taroo ga Hanakoi ni zibuni no

    Taroo NOM Hanako DAT self GEN

    ayamati o hanasita.

    mistake ACC told

    'Taroo told Hanakoi heri mistake.'

    (11) Taroo ga Hanakoi ni zibuni no

    Taroo NOM Hanako DAT self GEN

    ayamati o satosita.

    mistake ACC made-realize

    'Taroo made Hanakoi realize heri mistake.' (p. 121)

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  • 76 1 VOLUME 31, NUMBER 1

    In both examples the syntactic condition is equally satisfied. lida points out, however, that the degree of Hanako's involvement in the event is perceived to be greater in (11) than in (10), and this makes it easier for the speaker to choose Hanako's perspective in (11). Additional supporting evidence also comes from the contrast between the to-complement and the koto-complement and zibun-binding in the copula construction, among others. One of the consequences is that what has long been considered as subject binding, i.e., the antecedent of zibun is subject, is not a syntactic property but rather a special case of the discourse condition: that is, in those cases where zibun is bound to the subject, the speaker takes the perspective of the subject in describing the event, and the subject's perspective is the one which the speaker normally takes unless marked.

    While considering zibun as a deictic expression, lida makes a distinction between zibun and other deictic expressions such as migigawa 'to the right of and hidarigawa 'to the left of.' According to her, deictic expressions such as 'to the right of are described either on the basis of a reference object or from the viewpoint of some...