I just finished reading this paper, which describes the situations in which Japanese allows a dative subject and a nominative object. For example, the verb 分かる can be used like this:


"彼" is the subject but is marked with "に" instead of "が", and similarly "英語", the object, is marked irregularly with the nominative particle "が" instead of the usual "を". According to the paper, this happens in Japanese when a verb 1) licenses this case marking and 2) the verb is transitive (there is an object). There are two parts to my questions:

1)The 可能形 licences dative subjects:


but not


This is still ruled out for intransitives, so 5a in the paper shows that you cannot say 「*赤ちゃんにもう歩ける」. Does this change if we add another argument such as a location? Can I say 「人間にはその道が歩けない」 (let's say it's covered in lava or something).

2) The paper also mentions that there are exceptions to this rule, one of them being certain kinds of questions. Can anyone think of a Japanese question with a transitive verb or a verb that doesn't normally allow a dative subject, but which has a dative subject anyway?

  • I cannot think of examples of the other exception either "not in embedded clauses(Shibatani 1977: 807, Dubinsky 1992)". I don't feel like paying 38$ for the referred paper, but it would be interesting to hear any listed examples. – dainichi Mar 14 '12 at 8:28
  • I've requested it through interlibrary loan, so if I get a copy I'll post them here. – Nate Glenn Mar 14 '12 at 16:46
  • Btw why do you say that in the sentence "彼に英語が分かる", "彼" is the subject? If the translated sentence is "English is understood, as for him.", shouldn't "英語" be the subject? – Pacerier Mar 30 '12 at 21:41
  • I would not translate it that way, and that is not how it is treated in the literature. – Nate Glenn Mar 30 '12 at 23:37
  1. >Can I say 「人間にはその道が歩けない」
    Yes I think you can say that. Maybe you can also say 人間にはその道は歩けない/人間にその道は歩けない.
  2. Hmm... Would it be something like... you can say 君に(この車が)運転できるかい? but not 僕に運転できます。?? 私には耐えられない/私に耐えられるだろうか but not 私に耐えられます。?? or maybe 私にやって行けるだろうか/私にはやって行けない but not 私にやって行けます。??
  • 1
    Are "私には耐えられない" and "私にはやって行けない" meant as questions or statements? – Nate Glenn Mar 14 '12 at 1:25
  • @NateGlenn They're negative statements... That's why I wasn't sure. – user1016 Mar 14 '12 at 16:29

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