Indeterminate Pronouns

Junko Shimoyama

in The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Linguistics

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780195307344
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Indeterminate Pronouns

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Language Families



This article presents a survey on issues surrounding the so-called indeterminate pronouns in Japanese such as dare “who” and nani “what.” It focuses on two contexts, interrogative and universal, which easily allow apparently long-distance association of indeterminates with the particles ka and mo. Two major approaches on how indeterminate pronouns associate with quantificational particles that occur higher in the structure—namely, the movement and nonmovement analyses—are reviewed from the perspective of the syntax–semantics interface. The movement analysis takes the presence of the wh-island effect to be indicative of a movement relation between indeterminates and higher particles, and attempts to provide an account for the lack of other island effects. The question of whether the reviewed proposals can be extended to handle the syntax and semantics of the Japanese indeterminate pronoun system, and the indeterminate pronoun system in natural language, remains to be examined.

Keywords: Japanese indeterminate pronoun; dare; nani; syntax; semantics; natural language

Article.  8778 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology ; Language Families

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