JPN494: Japanese Language and Linguistics
JPN543: Advanced Japanese Language and
Syntax (4)
Binding theory
Binding theory is a component of grammar that
concerns relationships between pronouns and their
antecedents (the element that pronouns refer back
[A tall guy]1 came in. He1 ordered a regular coffee.
(a tall guy is an antecedent of he; he is bound to a tall guy)
Joe1 devotes himself1 to Japanese literature.
(Joe is an antecedent of himself; himself is bound to Joe)
Binding theory for English
regular pronouns vs. reflexive pronouns
Joe1 likes himself1
*Joe1 likes him1
Joe1 likes him2
A: Bob doesn’t like Joe, Jake doesn’t like Joe either – I
guess nobody likes him.
B: Well, at least JOE1 likes him1
*Joe1 likes him1
Joe1 likes himself1
Susan1 was unhappy because Joe criticized her1
*Susan1 was unhappy because Joe criticized herself1
What is the condition under which a regular pronoun
can be used?
What is the condition under which a reflexive pronoun can be
*Nobody told Susan1 about her1
Nobody told Susan1 about herself1
*Joe assigned Susan1 her1 (as a portrait model)
Joe assigned Susan1 herself1 (as a portrait model)
Susan’s1 friends like her1
*Susan’s1 friends like herself1
Principles A & B
Principle A: A reflexive pronoun must be bound by an
“outranking” argument of the same predicate.
Principle B: A non-reflexive pronoun may not be bound
by an “outranking” argument of the same predicate.
Argument Hierarchy: subject > direct object > indirect
object > PP-complement
cf. It is himself1 that Joe1 admires most.
Binding in prepositional phrases
*Nobody told Susan1 [about her1]
Nobody told Susan1 [about herself1]
*They1 talk [to them1]
They1 talk [to themselves1]
Joe1 put the TV remote down [beside him1]
Joe1 put the TV remote down [beside himself1]
Joe1 saw snakes [around him1]
Joe1 saw snakes [around himself1]
Picture noun reflexives
Joe1 found [a [picture [of him1]]]
Joe1 found [a [picture [of himself1]]]
Clinton1 wrote [a [book [about him1]]]
Clinton1 wrote [a [book [about himself1]]]
Modified Principle A: A reflexive pronoun that has an outranking
argument must be bound by an outranking argument of the
same predicate.
cf. Joe1 ordered a regular coffee. Then, {he1/*him1/*himself1} left.
Joe’s1 criticism of himself1 vs. *Joe’s1 criticism of him1
“Exempt” reflexive pronouns are subject to some
discourse-oriented (viewpoint-related) condition.
John1 was going to get even with Mary. That picture
of himself1 in the paper would really annoy her, as
would the other stunts he played.
Mary was quite taken aback by the publicity John1
was receiving. That picture of himself1 in the paper
had really annoyed her, and there was not much she
could do about it.
Does Japanese have a reflexive
the reflexive use of zibun
 山田 (やまだ) くん1 は 自分1 を批判 (ひはん) し
‘Yamada1 criticized himself1’
 山田 (やまだ) くん1 は 自分1 を (絵のモデルとし
て) 鈴木くんに割り当てた.
‘Yamada1 assigned himself1 to Suzuki (as a
portrait model)’
Zibun doesn’t need to be bound to an
(outranking) argument of the same verb:
ユミ1は, ケンが {彼女1/自分1} をたずねて来たとき, テレ
Yumi1 was watching TV when Ken visited her1.
ユミ1は, {彼女1/自分1} が批判されたとき, 黙っていた.
Yumi1 didn’t say anything when she1 was criticized.
(As a rule) zibun must be bound by a subject:
‘Yamada helped Suzuki in his room’
 山田くん1 は鈴木くん2を彼{1/2}の部屋で手伝った.
 山田くん1 は鈴木くん2を自分{1/*2}の部屋で手伝った.
‘Yamada showed Suzuki the car he designed’
 山田くん1 は鈴木くん2に [彼{1/2}が設計 (せっけい) した] 車を見せた
 山田くん1 は鈴木くん2に [自分{1/*2}が設計した] 車を見せた
Zibun does not have to be bound to an outranking argument of the
same predicate.
The antecedent of zibun must be a subject.
Zibun must be structurally “commanded” by its antecedent.
(Or more briefly: Zibun must be bound to a structurally commanding
ユミ1 は, 自分1 が合格 (ごうかく) したとき, まず両親に報告した.
‘When she passed the exam, Yumi reported it to her parents first.’
*自分1 は, ユミ1 が合格したとき, まず両親に報告した.
More details on zibun
Various uses of zibun:
#1 In certain dialects/styles, zibun is used as a
first or second person pronoun.
 「自分は千葉の生まれです」
 「自分がやります」
#2 Zibun is used in certain idioms:
 自分で (やった) ‘(he did it) himself’
 自分から ‘voluntarily, spontaneously’
#3 Zibun is used as a common noun that means: ‘self,
 自分探 (さが) しの旅 (たび) ‘a quest for your true self’
 もう一人の自分 ‘alter ego’
 山田くんは自分を見失 (みうしな) っている ‘Yamada
lost his mind’
#4 Zibun has a ‘contrastive’ use:
 山田くんは、みんなにトヨタの車を薦める.
‘Yamada recommends a Toyota to everyone.’
でも, 自分はフォードの車に乗っている.
‘But he himself drives a Ford.’
Perspective-sensitivity of zibun
(The core use of) zibun has intriguing
properties related to the “viewpoint”:
‘Yamada lost the book that Suzuki lent to him.’
 山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 自分1 に貸 (か) してあ
げた本] を失 (な) くしてしまった.
 山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 自分1 に貸してくれた
本] を失くしてしまった.
‘Yamada lost the book that {Suzuki/I} handed to
 山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 自分1 に渡 (わた) した
本] を失 (な) くしてしまった.
 山田くん1 は [僕が 自分1 に渡した本] を失くして
The use of zibun indicates that the speaker empathizes with its
referent more than the referents of the sister arguments,
*山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 自分1 に貸 (か) してあげた本] を失 (な) く
山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 自分1 に貸してくれた本] を失くしてしまっ
山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 自分1 に渡 (わた) した本] を失 (な) くして
*山田くん1 は [僕が 自分1 に渡した本] を失くしてしまった.
A regular pronoun like kare is not subject to such a constraint.
山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 彼1 に貸 (か) してあげた本] を失 (な) くし
山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 彼1 に貸してくれた本] を失くしてしまった.
山田くん1 は [鈴木くんが 彼1 に渡 (わた) した本] を失 (な) くしてし
山田くん1 は [僕が 彼1 に渡した本] を失くしてしまった.
Zibun in its reflexive use is not subject to the
perspective constraint.
 山田くんは (絵のモデルとして) 自分を僕に割り
The use of zibun is sensitive to the speaker’s
viewpoint only when it is not bound to an
outranking argument of the same verb.

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