The light verb construction in Japanese: the role of the verbal noun

dc.contributor.authorMiyamoto, Tadao
dc.contributor.supervisorSaxon, Leslie Adele of Linguisticsen_US of Philosophy Ph.D.en_US
dc.description.abstractThis is a study of the so-called Light Verb Construction (LVC) in Japanese, which consists of the verb suru ‘do’ and the accusative-marked verbal noun, as exemplified in (1). (1) a. Taroo ga Tokyo ni ryokoo o suru. NOM to travel ACC do ‘Taroo travels to Tokyo.’ b. Taroo ga eigo no benkyoo o suru. NOM English GEN study ACC do ‘Taroo studies English.' c. Taroo ga murabito ni ookami ga kuru to keikoku o suru NOM villagers to wolf NOM come COMP warning ACC do ‘Taroo warns the villagers that the wolf will come.' Since Grimshaw and Mester's (1988) seminal work, there have been unresolved debates on the role of suru, whether suru in such forms as in (1) functions as a light verb or not. An observational generalization is that the thematic array of a clause faithfully reflects the argument structure of the VN which heads the accusative phrase. Hence, from the viewpoint of argument structure, suru may be ‘light' in the sense that it makes no thematic contribution to the VN-o suru formation. This suru may hence be different from the regular use of suru as a two-place ACTIVITY predicate, as shown in (2). (2) a. Taroo ga gorufu o suru. NOM golf ACC do ‘Taroo plays golf.' b. Taroo ga tenisu o suru. NOM tennis ACC do ‘Taroo plays tennis.' c. Taroo ga kaimono o suru. MOM shopping ACC do ‘Taroo does a shopping.' The oft-cited differences between the so-called light suru construction and the heavy suru construction are two-fold. First, in the light suru construction, the arguments of the VN may be 'promoted' into a clausal domain. Judging from the verbal case marking, the arguments of the VN are treated as if they are those of suru. Second, the light suru construction may exhibit the so-called ‘frozen phenomena'. The observational generalization is that when there is no overt argument in the accusative phrase domain, this accusative phrase becomes ‘frozen' in the sense that it cannot tolerate syntactic processes, such as scrambling and adverbial insertion . The majority of previous studies examine the ‘weight' of suru either to support or to refute the idea that suru can function as a light verb. In other words, these previous studies attempt to disambiguate the VN-o suru formation relying solely on the lexical property of suru. The contention of this study is that the above approach is problematic. This study argues that the ambiguity does not stem from the ‘weight' of suru but from the thematic properties of the VN which heads the accusative phrase, primarily, whether it is headed by a thematic or non-thematic VN. Another contention of this study is that the ambiguity can be resolved under the assumption that there is only one type of suru: a two-place predicate which licenses Agent and EVENT. In this sense, this study will argue against the idea that suru functions as a light verb and will argue that the characterization of VN-o sum formation arises not from the dichotic distinction of suru but from the dichotic distinction of its accusative phrase.en_US
dc.rightsAvailable to the World Wide Weben_US
dc.subjectJapanese languageen_US
dc.subjectNoun phraseen_US
dc.titleThe light verb construction in Japanese: the role of the verbal nounen_US


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