On 12 April, the Monash Japanese Studies staff and students gathered to welcome Dr. Satoshi Nambu to the school at a presentation, entitled -Ga or -O? Which one to use? Some facts from a corpus-based and experimental study on linguistic variants in Japanese.
Dr. Nambu explained how, in Japanese, when a transitive verb comes with a desiderative or potential form, the direct object can take the nominative marker -ga, instead of the expected accusative marker -o. Based on corpus data and three sets of experimental data (from two acceptability judgment experiments with written stimuli and one rating experiment with auditory stimuli), this talk presents substantial evidence for a linguistic condition that affects a choice of the particles with a desiderative predicate: adjacency between the object and its predicate. Along the line with the information structural theory, I discuss two factors related to the adjacency effect: a preverbal position with a default focus, and focushood of ga-marking. While the adjacency effect is suggested in the corpus data, the findings from the experiments reveal that (i) the adjacency effect is real, and (ii) it can be mitigated by prosodic or contextual cues signalling the focushood of the object, concluding that nominative-marking on the object indicates its focushood, i.e., that it is either the focus of the utterance or part thereof, whereas accusative-marking has no such information-structural bearing.