Interpreting agreement: Evidence from Japanese object honorifics

Shiori Ikawa


Agree is commonly considered to have no semantic effects (Chomsky 2000, 2001 a.o.). However, based on the behaviors of the Japanese object honorific (OH) construction, this work claims that Agree can affect interpretation in such a way that its result feeds a semantic predicate. This claim is based on two observations regarding OH. First, I examine a theoretically overlooked observation that OH is felicitous only when the object referent is honored by the subject referent as well as the speaker. I show that this observation suggests that the head responsible for the OH marking induces the interpretation that the subject and the speaker honor the object. Second, I examine the distribution of the honoree in OH and argue that the head responsible for OH marking accesses the object via Agree, in line with previous theoretical studies (Niinuma 2003; Boeckx & Niinuma 2004). I account for both observations by proposing that the honorific head serves as a semantic predicate honor, which finds its arguments via Agree.


object honorifics; Agree; LF-interpretability; syntax; syntax-semantics interface

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