Verb semantics and argument realization in pre-modern Japanese:
A comprehensive study of the basic syntax of pre-modern Japanese

This research project investigates argument realization in detail for pre-modern Japanese, in essence giving a comprehensive account of the basic grammar of each of the stages of the language, from the beginning of its recorded history in the 8th century until the beginning of the 17th century. The time-depth and the quality and quantity of the sources through to the pre-modern period together make feasible a study of this kind which combines synchronic and diachronic perspectives. The results of the project will bear on the description and understanding of pre-modern Japanese and its changes through time, impacting on understanding and interpretation of earlier texts. The project is also expected to have implications for general linguistic theory, both with regards to frameworks for understanding verb semantics and clause structure, and with regards to the application of syntactic theory to ‘dead’ languages.

The project is placed within the University's Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics (in the Faculty of Oriental Studies), with participation from the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics (University of Oxford) and the Department of Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London).

The project runs from 1 January 2009 until September 2013. The initial phase of the project consists of building an extensive electronic database of representative texts which will form the basis for the descriptive and analytical work of the project.

The project is funded by a generous award of almost £1 million from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Please feel free to contact us at with any questions about the project.