In the study of ditransitive constructions in Japanese, there is a debate that refl ects a tension that often arises in linguistic study: the seeming confl ict between focusing on what is unique about a particular language and asking what that language can tell us about universal grammar. These two perspectives do not always lead to divergent views, and, when they do diverge, taking one or the other approach by no means gives a better chance of emerging with the right analysis.