How to be a ham sandwich or an eel: The English deferred equative and the Japanese eel sentence
In some languages including English and Japanese, a nominal predicate construction (NPC; "NP1 is NP2") has a marked variety—"open-ended-relation NPCs" (ONPCs), to label it—where the referents of the subject NP and the predicate NP are understood to be in some pragmatically prominent relation other than identity or inclusion (e.g. I'm the ham sandwich 'I'm the customer who ordered the ham sandwich'). The Japanese ONPC has been called the "eel sentence (eel construction)", after an oft-cited example involving unagi 'eel' as its predicate NP. The English ONPC is discussed in good detail by Ward (2004; "Equatives and deferred reference", Language 80) under the rubric of the "deferred equative". The ONPCs in the two languages can be naturally used only under limited discourse configurations, with the English one being more severely constrained than the Japanese one. This work develops semantic analyses of the two ONPCs that improve on previous accounts.