L2 Acquisition of Null Subjects in Japanese: A New Generative Perspective and Its Pedagogical Implications

  • Mika KizuEmail author
Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 16)


This chapter explores what the outcome of a generative SLA study of null subjects can contribute to the field of instructed SLA and strives to serve as a bridge between generative syntactic analyses and potential classroom practices. The study focuses on null subjects in L2 Japanese at the levels of elementary to pre-advanced proficiencies. Adopting Hasegawa’s (Sci Approach Lang 7:1–34. Center for Language Sciences, Kanda University of International Studies, 2008; Agreement at the CP level: clause types and the ‘person’ restriction on the subject. In: MIT Working Papers in Linguistics: The Proceedings of the Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics, vol. 5, pp 131–152, 2009) analysis, null subjects in Japanese main clauses have two types: first-/second-person subjects licensed by agreement in the domain of modality and third-person subjects identified in context. This dichotomy is also manifested in the experimental findings, which are (1) the elementary learners had more difficulty identifying the referents of null first- or second-person subjects than those of null third-person subjects and (2) learners at all levels demonstrated underuse of null subjects especially in first-/second-person contexts. Based on these results, the chapter argues that null subjects can clearly be a target of focus on form instruction, but not of focus on formS or focus on meaning, and elaborates on how the results obtained in the experiment should be interpreted within the methodology of focus on form.


Partial Eta2 Sentence Type Null Subject Pedagogical Implication Person Subject 
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A preliminary version of this chapter was presented at the colloquium entitled “Half a century on: What relevance does generative SLA have for language teaching?” at the American Association for Applied Linguistics 2011 Conference, Chicago, USA. I am grateful to the participants at the colloquium and an anonymous reviewer for the present chapter. Many thanks are also due for their valuable comments and suggestions from Heather Marsden, Barbara Pizziconi, and Melinda Whong. This research was partially supported by British Academy Overseas Conference Grant, SOAS Faculty of Languages and Cultures Strategic Funding in 2011, and the Japan Foundation Japanese Studies Fellowship Program (2012–2013).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Japan and Korea, SOASUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Kobe UniversityKobeJapan

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