Yasutada Sudo Dissertation Defense


classifier, numeral, semantic parameter, Japanese


In obligatory classifier languages like Japanese, numerals cannot directly modify nouns without the help of a classifier. It is standardly considered that this is because nouns in obligatory classifier languages have ‘uncountable denotations’, unlike in non-classifier languages like English, and the function of classifiers is to turn such uncountable denotations into something countable (Chierchia 1998a,b, Krifka 2008, among many others). Contrary to this view, it is argued that what makes Japanese an obligatory classifier language is not the semantics of nouns but the semantics of numerals. Specifically, evidence is presented that numerals in Japanese cannot function as predicates on their own, which is taken as evidence that the extensions of numerals in Japanese are exclusively singular terms. It is then proposed that the semantic function of classifiers is to turn such singular terms into modifiers/predicates. It is furthermore claimed that the singular terms denoted by numerals are abstract entities (cf. Rothstein 2013, Scontras 2014a,b), and proposed that the reason why they cannot have modifier/predicate uses in obligatory classifier languages like Japanese is because the presence of classifiers in the lexicon blocks the use of a type-shifting operator that turns singular terms denoted by numerals into predicates (cf. Chierchia 1998a,b).

Recommended Citation

Sudo, Yasutada (2016) "The Semantic Role of Classifiers in Japanese," Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication: Vol. 11. https://doi.org/10.4148/1944-3676.1108


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On the semantics of phi features on pronouns


Author:Sudo, Yasutada, Ph. D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Citable URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/77805

Other Contributors:Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy.

Advisor:Danny Fox, Martin Hackl and Irene Heim.

Department:Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy.

Publisher:Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Date Issued:2012


This thesis investigates three topics relating to the semantics of phi features on pronouns. Part I focuses on gender features on pronouns. Following previous studies (Cooper 1983, Heim & Kratzer 1998), I claim that they are presupposition triggers. Based on this assumption, I show that predicates containing bound gendered pronouns have an assertive meaning that does not entail the gender presupposition, and further point out that such predicates pose a serious challenge for existing theories of presupposition projection, especially with respect to quantified sentences. A conclusion drawn from this discussion is that the presupposition needs to be dissociated from the assertive meaning, as in Karttunen & Peters's (1979) two dimensional theory. However, such a theory is known to run into the so-called binding problem in quantified sentences. I propose a solution to the binding problem using the mechanism of cross-sentential anaphora, and show that the resulting theory nicely accounts for the projection properties of various quantificational determiners. Part II discusses the interpretation of person and number features on bound pronouns. It is known that some occurrences of phi features on bound pronoun behave as if they are semantically inert (Heim 2008b, Jacobson to appear, Kratzer 1998a, 2009, Partee 1989). One popular account of this phenomenon, the minimal pronoun account, claims that such phi features are purely morphological, and postulates a PF operation that transmits phi features of a binder onto each pronoun that it binds (Heim 2008b, Kratzer 1998a, 2009). I put forward an alternative account that dispenses with the PF operation, and instead puts most of the burden on syntax, by encoding more information in the indices than standardly assumed. As a result, all occurrences of phi features are semantically relevant. I offer both empirical and conceptual arguments for the proposed account over the minimal pronoun account. Part III deals with the phenomenon of indexical shifting where person features are systematically affected (Anand 2006, Anand & Nevins 2004, Schlenker 1999, 2003b). I discuss novel data from Uyghur and Japanese as well as data drawn from previous studies, particularly focusing on the universals and variation within and across languages.


Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, 2012.; Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.; Includes bibliographical references (p. 246-260).


Keywords:Linguistics and Philosophy.

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