Susumu Kuno

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Susumu Kuno (久野 暲[1] Kuno Susumu?, August 11, 1933-) is a Japanese linguist and author. He is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1964 and spent his entire career. He received his A.B. and A.M. from Tokyo University where he received a thorough grounding in linguistics under the guidance of Shirō Hattori. His postgraduate research focused on the Dravidian languages. It was through S.-Y. Kuroda, an early advocate of Chomskyan approaches to language, that Kuno undertook his first studies in transformational grammar. In 1960 he went to Harvard to work on a machine translation project.

Kuno is known for his discourse-functionalist approach to syntax known as functional sentence perspective and for his analysis of the syntax of Japanese verbs and particularly the semantic and grammatical characteristics of stativity[2] and the semantic correlates of case marking and constraints on scrambling.[3] However, his interests are broader. In the preface to the second of a pair of festschrifts for Kuno, its editors describe these interests as "[extending] not only to syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, but also to computational linguistics and other fields such as discourse study and the processing of kanji, Chinese characters used in Japan".[4]

The Structure of the Japanese Language[edit]

Kuno's most widely read book is his innovative study, The Structure of the Japanese Language, which set out to tackle what nearly all previous grammars of that language had either failed to adequately explain or wholly ignored. The issues he analyses here are a small restricted group of features of the language overall, but of crucial importance for mastery of Japanese, features which 'make Japanese Japanese' and mark it out from other languages, including those, especially, which share the basic SOV structure of that language. The Subject-Object-Verb word order is a pattern he associates with 4 notable features characteristic of Japanese grammar, namely:-

(1) Its postpositional, as opposed to prepositional features.
(2) Its left-branching feature in syntactic analysis.
(3) Its backward working phrase deletion pattern.
(4) Its freedom from constraints to place interrogative words in sentence-initial position.[5]

Using the insights of transformational grammar, Kuno sketches out what standard grammars do not tell their readers, i.e., when otherwise normal grammatical patterns can not be used. In this sense, the work constituted an innovative 'grammar of ungrammatical sentences'.[6]


Kuno's second festschrift contains a fuller bibliography, listing six authored or coauthored books, 17 edited or coedited books and working papers, a book translation, and 120 authored or coauthored papers.[7]

  • Kuno, Susumu (1966) The augmented predictive analyzer for context-free languages - its relative efficiency. Commun. ACM 9(11): 810-823.
  • Kuno, Susumu, Anthony G. Oettinger (1968) Computational linguistics in a Ph.D. computer science program. Commun. ACM 11(12): 831-836
  • Hayashi, Hideyuki, Sheila Duncan, Susumu Kuno (1968) Computational Linguistics: Graphical input/output of nonstandard characters. Commun. ACM 11(9): 613-618
  • Kuno, Susumu, et al. (1968) Mathematical Linguistics and Automatic Translation. Cambridge, Mass.: The Aiken Computation Laboratory, Harvard University.
  • Kuno, Susumu. (1973). The structure of the Japanese language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-11049-0.
  • Kuno Susumu (1973) Nihon bunpõ kenkyũ (日本文法研究). Tokyo: Taishũkan.
  • Kuno, Susumu. (1976). Subject, theme, and the speaker's empathy: A re-examination of relativization phenomena. In Charles N. Li (ed.), Subject and topic (pp. 417–444). New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-447350-4.
  • Kuno Susumu (1978) Danwa no bunpõ (談話の文法). Tokyo: Taishũkan.
  • Kuno Susumu (1983) Shin Nihon bunpõ kenkyũ (新日本文法研究). Tokyo: Taishũkan.
  • Kuno, Susumu (1987) Functional Syntax: Anaphora, Discourse, and Empathy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46200-5 (hard); ISBN 0-226-46201-3 (paper).
  • Kuno, Susumu, and Ken-ichi Takami (1993) Grammar and Discourse Principles: Functional Syntax and GB Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46202-1 (hard); ISBN 0-226-46204-8 (paper).
  • Kuno, Susumu, and Ken-ichi Takami. Quantifier Scope. Tokyo: Kurosio, 2002. ISBN 4-87424-248-0
  • Kuno, Susumu, et al. (2004) Studies in Korean Syntax and Semantics. Seoul: International Circle of Korean Linguistics. ISBN 89-7878-766-5.
  • Kuno, Susumu and Ken-ichi Takami. (2004) Functional constraints in grammar on the unergative-unaccusative distinction. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ISBN 90-272-1821-8 or ISBN 1-58811-555-0. Google Books.
  • Kuno, Susumu and Takami Ken'ichi (高見健一). Bun no imi (文の意味). Tokyo: Kurosio, 2005. ISBN 4-87424-323-1.
  • Kuno, Susumu et al. (2006). Nihongo kinoteki kobun kenkyu. Tokyo: Taishukanshoten


  • Function and Structure: In Honor of Susumu Kuno, ed. Akio Kamio and Ken-ichi Takami. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1999. ISBN 90-272-5073-1 and ISBN 1-55619-822-1.
  • Syntactic and Functional Explorations: In Honor of Susumu Kuno, ed. Ken-ichi Takami, Akio Kamio, and John Whitman. Tokyo: Kurosio, 2000. ISBN 4-87424-197-2.


  1. ^ The character 暲, for Susumu, is unusual and may not be rendered correctly even on some computers capable of rendering most Japanese. It is Unicode 66B2 and may be viewed as a graphic at Because it is unusual, Susumu is sometimes represented on the web via the geta kigō mark (meaning that the correct character is known but unavailable), given instead as katakana, or (for example in the OPAC of the Japanese National Diet Library) as both.
  2. ^ Summarized in for example Matsuo Soga, Tense and Aspect in Modern Colloquial Japanese (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press; ISBN 0-7748-0158-1), pp. 85–86.
  3. ^ The correlates and constraints are summarized in such relatively accessible works as Natsuko Tsujimura, An Introduction to Japanese Linguistics (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996).
  4. ^ "Preface" to Ken-ichi Takami et al., eds, Syntactical and Functional Explorations, p. vii.
  5. ^ Susumu Kuno, The Structure of the Japanese Language, MIT Press, 1973,p.4
  6. ^ Susumu Kuno, The Structure of the Japanese Language, ibid. p.ix
  7. ^ "Publications by Susumu Kuno", in Ken-ichi Takami et al., eds, Syntactical and Functional Explorations, pp. ix–xvii.

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