Syntactic, Semantic, and Morphological Characteristics of the Japanese Lexicon

Abbreviation : Japanese lexicon
Project leader: KAGEYAMA Taro
Director-General, NINJAL
Project Period: October 2009 - March 2016
Research field: linguistics
Keywords: lexicon, morphology, semantics, syntax, lexicology
Project website:


Having multiple strata including native Japanese, Sino-Japanese, foreign, and mimetic words, the Japanese lexicon presents a variety of theoretically intriguing properties that are considered unique among the world’s languages. Applying multifaceted approaches including theoretical, descriptive, contrastive, and historical perspectives, this project aims to elucidate the typological characteristics of the Japanese lexicon and word formation and develop an integrated lexical theory. The project collaborators work in four teams dealing with the following selected research topics:

  • (i) the distinction between property predication and event predication,
  • (ii) the valency class alternations of Japanese verbs,
  • (iii) compound verbs of the form ‘Verb + Verb’, and
  • (iv) interactions of the lexicon and syntax/semantics.

The team working on topic (i) put out a collection of papers entitled The World of Property Predication (written in Japanese, Kurosio Publishers) in 2012. The valency alternations team (ii) pursues research partly in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and is expected to hold an international symposium in the summer of 2012. In 2013, the compound verb team (iii) will hold another international conference on compound and complex predicates in Asian languages with the cooperation of the Department of Crosslinguistic Studies. Finally, the team concerned with syntax/semantics interactions (iv) is preparing a book to be published by a European publisher. Additionally, a database of Japanese V+V compound verbs is in preparation for public use.

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