An experimental reassessment of complex NP islands with NP-scrambling in Japanese

Shin Fukuda, Nozomi Tanaka, Hajime Ono, Jon Sprouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There is little consensus in the Japanese syntax literature on the question of whether complex NPs with a noun complement headed by toyuu 'that.say' are islands for NP-scrambling dependencies. To explore this question, we conducted two acceptability judgment experiments using the factorial definition of islands to test the status of noun complements, relative clauses (which are also complex NPs, and uniformly considered islands in the literature), and coordinated NP structures (which are also uniformly considered islands in the literature). Our first experiment yielded strong evidence that relative clauses and coordinated NPs are islands (as expected), and strong evidence that noun complements are not. Our second experiment also found strong evidence that relative clauses and coordinated NPs are islands, but yielded a small, non-significant, trend toward an effect with noun complements. Based on the sizes of our samples (89 and 90 participants, respectively), the sizes of the effects, and the details of the acceptability patterns, we conclude that noun complements in Japanese are not islands with respect to NP-scrambling. We also investigated between- and within-participant variability in our results. We observe no evidence of increased between-participant variability for noun complements relative to other islands, and no increase of within-participant variability for noun complements relative to scrambling out of (non-island) declarative CPs. Our results have consequences for a number of issues that have been encoded in current syntactic theories of island effects, including the correlation between syntactic constituent complexity and island status (e.g., number of bounding nodes or phase heads), and the correlation between complementizer deletion and island status (e.g., the complement/adjunct distinction).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGlossa
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics

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