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  • The syntax of possession in Japanese by Takae Tsujioka
  • Kleanthes K. Grohmann
The syntax of possession in Japanese. By Takae Tsujioka. (Outstanding dissertations in linguistics.) London: Routledge, 2002. Pp. xiii, 197. ISBN 0415941628. $65 (Hb).

Slightly extending the title of this book, ‘[t]he aim of this thesis is to investigate the syntax of possession expressions in Japanese at the sentential level’ (1). The book is rich in empirical illustration and is formulated in terms compatible with minimalist approaches to linguistic theory. In Ch. 1, ‘Introduction’ (3–17), Tsujioka offers a brief overview of possessive issues, a basic discussion of Japanese language data and relevant questions, and a short outline of the organization of the book. Ch. 2 lays out the ‘Theoretical assumptions’ (19–22) adopted in the study, in particular the relevance of checking theory and locality conditions as understood in mainstream minimalism (Noam Chomsky, The minimalist program, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995).

The main thesis proposed and developed here is that a Szabolcsi-style analysis in terms of possessor raising can be successfully applied to Japanese possession structures (Anna Szabolcsi, ‘The possessor that ran away from home’, The Linguistic Review 3.89–102, 1983). The basic intuition is that sentential possession is related to the structure of a possessive DP in being derived from it as in Johni BE [DP ti a house] (T’s ex. 10 on p. 6, the English rendition of Hungarian yielding John has a house where dative case is assigned to the originally DP-internal subject).

Ch. 3 investigates ‘Nominal and clausal possessives’ (23–60). T applies the possessor-raising analysis of possessive sentences (for which she sketches a number of existing alternatives in Ch. 1) with iru and aru ‘be/exist’, which are analyzed as existential/locative verbs in possessive, existential, and locative constructions. T also deals with differences between Japanese and Hungarian (the latter inspired the possessor-raising analysis originally proposed in Szabolcsi 1983) and achieves a novel account for some otherwise mysterious properties.

Ch. 4 addresses the ‘E-possessive and locative’ (61–105), in particular, how possessive, existential, and locative structures relate to one another. T argues that existential structures differ minimally, but crucially, from locative ones and that possessives form [End Page 1025] a subtype of existentials—hence E-possessives (where E also correlates with possessor extraction).

Ch. 5 presents ‘The structures of possessors’ (107–38) in detail, emphasizing the obligatory absence of adjectival modification from possessives with the verbs iru and aru. The chapter also includes a general discussion of the alienable/inalienable distinction in possession, here applied to Japanese. The latter is further explored in Ch. 6, ‘Inalienable possession construction with “do”’ (139–66), where Japanese suru ‘do’ is argued to be the spell-out of a functional category, rather than a lexical verb, whose main function is to introduce an external possessor. Linking the discussion to the literature overview from Ch. 1, T shows that the possessor-raising account cannot be adopted for possession with suru, but that a pro-binding approach is called for instead (where the trace t in the movement analysis sketched above is replaced by nonmovement pro). A crosslinguistic perspective completes this chapter.

The book contains a bibliography (167–79) and an adequate index (181–97). It is clearly organized and well written, and T’s analysis is elegant. This book is recommended to anyone working on possession or interested in learning more about related issues in Japanese syntax.

Kleanthes K. Grohmann
University of Cyprus