Variable zero-marking of (o) in Tokyo Japanese

Kenjiro Matsuda, University of Pennsylvania


The variation between the presence and the absence of the object case marker -o (the zero-marking of (o)) in Tokyo Japanese has been approached from a number of different linguistic traditions, including generative grammar, functionalism, sociolinguistics and corpus linguistics, and a number of hypotheses have been advanced concerning the constraints governing this phenomenon of natural speech. Nevertheless, no comprehensive studies on the phenomenon have yet been done with natural speech as the primary source of data. In this variationist thesis, I select factors from major proposals in recent literature, and demonstrate through a multivariate analysis that the variation can be accounted for by (1) the form of the object NP, (2) word order and (3) a factor encoding the interaction between residence area (uptown and downtown) and speech style. The object NP form factor is shown to obey the following hierarchy: wh-pronoun $>$ NP $>$ non-wh-pronoun $>$ clausal NP (in order of decreasing likelihood of zero-marking), reflecting a crosslinguistic tendency for pronouns to be case-marked. Adjacency between the verb and the object NP is the most crucial aspect of the word order factor. Furthermore, a close examination of the Extended Functional Hypothesis reveals that the variation is not driven by any functional motivation, such as the need to preserve meaning, but is rather the result of a mechanical process whereby a zero form is followed by another zero, a conclusion that supports results from variable processes in other languages (Poplack 1979, Scherre and Naro 1991). On the social dimension, women predominate in the use of the zero form in both residential areas, but uptown speakers of both sexes exhibit sharper style shifting than their downtown counterparts, a point that was overlooked in previous work on the variable (Shibamoto 1985). This social differentiation is explained in this thesis as a reflection of the historical background of each residential area. Finally, I note that it cannot at present be determined whether this instance of synchronic variation is a case of stable variation or of (slow) change in progress.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Matsuda, Kenjiro, "Variable zero-marking of (o) in Tokyo Japanese" (1995). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9615088.