Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Gita Martohardjono

Subject Categories



eye-tracking; Japanese; overt; pragmatics; pronouns; second language acquisition


This dissertation examines the interpretation of Japanese overt 3rd person pronouns by native (N=21) and advanced L1-English/L2-Japanese (N=20) speakers, using interpretation, reaction-time, and eye-tracking data. Previous studies have investigated L1 and L2 pronoun interpretation in null-subject languages like Spanish, Italian, and Greek, finding that L1 speakers tend to show a topic-shift effect for overt pronouns more often than L2ers (Sorace, 2011). Similar studies on Japanese, which allows null subjects but also differs greatly from these languages, have been mixed; crucially, several studies found no antecedent bias for overt pronouns by L1 speakers to begin with (Okuma, 2012; Ueno & Kehler, 2010).

This study first argues that Japanese overt 3rd person pronouns differ crucially from those in Italian-like languages, in that they do not elicit a generalized conversational implicature for topic-shift, nor do they fit on an anaphora hierarchy. Instead, Japanese 3rd person pronouns are better analyzed as triggering particularized conversational implicatures, i.e., that their interpretation must be calculated on an utterance-by-utterance basis based on the specific context of each utterance (as opposed to generalized conversational implicatures, which can be cancelled by context but are not created by it). This study further argues that advanced L2 speakers therefore face a different task than L2 speakers of Italian-like languages, and crucially must inhibit English in order to achieve a native-like interpretation pattern.

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