Indirect reciprocity in Japanese


  • Toshiyuki Ogihara University of Washington



reciprocity, empathy, anaphor, binding, passive, Japanese


I shall discuss a special usage of the Japanese reciprocal expression otagai. In this usage, otagai does not occur as the object of a transitive verb and does not induce a reciprocal interpretation. Rather, it seems to modify the nominal in the subject position. I argue that otagai in such examples expresses reciprocity only indirectly in that the relation is not expressed overtly in the sentence in question. The relation is a psychological one in that the sentence as a whole says that each participant of the speech context knows that the other participant(s) have the property given by the overt predicate in the sentence. This, then, entails that each of them has this same property since know is a factive predicate. Since each participant has to be in a position to assess what the other member(s) are thinking of, the group of people in question must know each other well. This means that the nature of reciprocity is essentially the same in English and Japanese except that otagai could introduce a covert psychological relation to satisfy the reciprocity requirement. The article also discusses the similarity between the indirect use of otagai and the indirect passive in Japanese.

Author Biography

  • Toshiyuki Ogihara, University of Washington
    Professor of Linguistics




How to Cite

Ogihara, Toshiyuki. 2024. “Indirect Reciprocity in Japanese”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 9 (1): 5731.