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彼氏の猫に対してアレルギー反応を起こした。
I had an allergic reaction to my boyfriend's cat.

What is the implied subject of 起こす in this sentence? By default I would expect "I", but "I caused an allergic reaction to my boyfriend's cat" would certainly be a strange thing to say.

The only subject that seems to make sense is "an allergen"; a rather specialist implied subject.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding how the sentence works. Is there a meaning of 起こす which would fit here that makes this sentence clearer? Or is there some other way of thinking about the sentence?

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    How about "my body" (which on some level is arguably equivalent to "I")? – Will May 15 at 23:38
  • @Will There is no need to say 体 at least in Japanese. 私の体はアレルギーを起こした is unnecessarily wordy, and 私はアレルギーを起こした is perfectly natural. – naruto May 16 at 7:32
  • @naruto それは分かるけど、「I」という概念の一つの要素である「体」が行動を起こしたとすれば、ただの日本語の特徴ではなく、ちゃんと一理があると主張したかったです。(この「I」が無意識的な主語であることを英語で解釈するために。) – Will May 16 at 10:21
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The subject is "implicit I" (or someone mentioned in the previous context). Here 起こす is used for some symptom/condition that a person develops involuntarily, and this is perfectly fine. You can say (彼女は)けいれんを起こした, (私は)発作を起こした, (彼は)かんしゃくを起こした and so on. See the 6th definition here. (By the way, English "develop" used in similar situations seemed a bit strange to me at first sight.)

An allergen can 起こす (cause) an allergic reaction, too. If the subject were アレルゲン, the sentence would be interpreted as "(An allergen) caused an allergic reaction to my boyfriend's cat". So technically speaking, this sentence is ambiguous. But this interpretation is highly unlikely unless this was said in a very rare context.

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