Negative sensitive items and the discourse-configurational nature of Japanese

Shigeru Miyagawa, Nobuaki Nishioka, Hedde Zeijlstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


We take up three Negative Sensitive Items (NSIs) in Japanese, Wh-MO plain negative indefinites, exceptive XP-sika, and certain minimizing indefinites, such as rokuna N (‘any decent N’). Although these three NSIs behave differently, we demonstrate that the two traditional NSI categories of Negative Concord Items (NCIs) and Negative Polarity Items (NPIs) are sufficient for characterizing these items. We argue that Wh-MO and XP-sika are NCIs, thus they contain a neg feature ([uneg]) which enters into (upward) agreement with its corresponding an uninterpretable feature ([ineg]). The third NSI, rokuna N, is an NPI. Two issues arise with XP-sika. First, it has an inherent focus feature, which distinguishes it from the other two. Second, this focus feature is syntactically active – meaning that movement is forced – only for the argument XP-sika. We argue that these properties of XP-sika associated with focus are independent of NP-sika as an NSI, and should be dealt with as an overall property of Japanese being a discourse configurational language. We introduce a case-theoretic solution to how focus becomes syntactically active solely with argument XP-sika.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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