Mind your weight: ‘Motionlessly’ sitting between the object and the verb in Japanese

Hing-Yuet Fung


The object in Japanese is often displaced from its canonical position next to the sentence-final verb, due to motivations such as information structure or animacy. Such flexibility allows for an adverb to be placed between the object and the verb. In the literature, there are suggestions for an almost equal preference to place Japanese manner adverbs before or after the object, inferred from both online and offline results. We will present a corpus study with a representative Japanese manner adverb zitto ‘motionlessly’ to show that either order may be preferred in different accounts of word order variation, but none can satisfy both requirements of distance minimization and accessibility, which are manifested in competing directions in Japanese, a verb-final language. In both accounts, weight has immense effect and should not be neglected. By using two heuristic methods to measure the weight effect, we propose that this case study with an object and an adverb sheds new light on the explanatory power of the distance minimization account, in particular by the Mimimize Domains principle (Hawkins 1994), which operates at both levels of (1) the constituency construction of the full VP, which favors the object-first order, and (2) the Phrasal Combination Domain between the head of object and the verb, which favors the adverb-first order. It is also proposed to implement a complement-and-adjunct distinction in the MiD principle, as a step toward a more effective study method of weight effect which I shall call efficiency profiling.


performance theory; weight effect; word order; adverb; Japanese; corpus

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v6i1.4982

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