Licensing of matrix questions in Japanese and its implications

Yoshiki Fujiwara


Japanese allows matrix questions either with or without a Q-particle. It is therefore often assumed that a Q-particle is optional in matrix questions and questions can be licensed by a null Q-particle or rising-intonation. This paper, however, shows that some matrix questions require an overt Q-particle, which undermines the assumption that a null Q-particle or rising intonation can license sentences as interrogative. This study thus pursues the mechanism of licensing matrix questions without this assumption. In particular, I propose that yes/no- and wh-questions without an overt Q-particle are licensed via Agree with their relevant items (i.e. a polarity head and wh-phrase). I further argue that there are two positions where matrix yes/no-questions are licensed in Japanese. This two-layered approach can capture the typological distribution of Q-particles and universal properties of matrix yes/no-questions.


matrix question; yes/no-question; Q-particle; clause-typing; Speech-Act phrase; rising intonation; focus intervention; Japanese

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Copyright (c) 2020 Yoshiki Fujiwara

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