Exploration into a new understanding of 'zero anaphora' in Japanese everyday talk

Tsuyoshi Ono, Ryoko Suzuki

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines the phenomenon called 'zero anaphora' in Japanese where syntactic arguments, thought to be projected by the predicates, are assumed to be deleted yet their referents are still tracked. A close inspection of representative narrative and interactive segments reveals that everyday talk, the primordial form of language, is carried out largely through more or less fixed expressions which are better analyzed as not projecting syntactic arguments. This suggests that deletion of arguments and tracking of referents might not be relevant to the grammar of Japanese everyday talk. We demonstrate this by discussing several facts including: (1) inserting what might be thought of as 'deleted' arguments in relevant examples makes them consistently more marked, awkward, or even unacceptable and (2) 'deleted' arguments are often associated with multiple equally possible referents, or no referents. The predominance of fixed expressions in our data suggests that they constitute the basic type of language in Japanese everyday talk. It is hoped that the current study is a contribution to building a model of grammar which captures this very characteristic of everyday talk where (semi-) fixed structure continuously emerges.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFixed Expressions. Building language structure and social action
EditorsRitva Laury, Tsuyoshi Ono
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9789027260628
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NamePragmatics and Beyond New Series
ISSN (Print)0922-842X


  • Ellipsis
  • English
  • Everyday talk
  • Fixed expression
  • Japanese
  • Zero
  • Zero anaphora

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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