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Agreement and Its Failures

Agreement and Its Failures

Omer Preminger
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Agreement and Its Failures
    Book Description:

    In this book, Omer Preminger investigates how the obligatory nature of predicate-argument agreement is enforced by the grammar. Preminger argues that an empirically adequate theory of predicate-argument agreement requires recourse to an operation, whose obligatoriness is a grammatical primitive not reducible to representational properties, but whose successful culmination is not enforced by the grammar. Preminger's argument counters contemporary approaches that find the obligatoriness of predicate-argument agreement enforced through representational means. The most prominent of these is Chomsky's "interpretability"-based proposal, in which the obligatoriness of predicate-argument agreement is enforced through derivational time bombs. Preminger presents an empirical argument against contemporary approaches that seek to derive the obligatory nature of predicate-argument agreement exclusively fromderivational time bombs. He offers instead an alternative account based on the notion ofobligatory operationsbetter suited to the facts. The crucial data involves utterances that inescapably involve attempted-but-failed agreement and are nonetheless fully grammatical. Preminger combines a detailed empirical investigation of agreement phenomena in the Kichean (Mayan) languages, Zulu (Bantu), Basque, Icelandic, and French with an extensive and rigorous theoretical exploration of the far-reaching consequences of these data. The result is a novel proposal that has profound implications for the formalism that the theory of grammar uses to derive obligatory processes and properties.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32319-2
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Samuel Jay Keyser

    We are pleased to present the sixty-eighth volume in the seriesLinguistic Inquiry Monographs. These monographs present new and original research beyond the scope of the article. We hope they will benefit our field by bringing to it perspectives that will stimulate further research and insight.

    Originally published in limited edition, theLinguistic Inquiry Monographsare now more widely available. This change is due to the great interest engendered by the series and by the needs of a growing readership. The editors thank the readers for their support and welcome suggestions about future directions for the series....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The central question investigated in this book is how the obligatory nature of predicate-argument agreement (henceforth, φ-agreement) is enforced by the grammar.¹ The central claim is that an empirically adequate theory of φ-agreement requires recourse to an operation whose obligatory triggering is a grammatical primitive, not reducible to representational properties, but whose successful culmination is not enforced by the grammar.

    In many contemporary treatments of φ-agreement, its obligatoriness is enforced through representational means. Perhaps most prominent is Chomsky’s (2000, 2001)

    “interpretability”-based proposal, in which the obligatoriness of φ-agreement is enforced throughderivational time-bombs: elements of the initial representation that cannot...

  7. 2 Modeling the Obligatoriness of φ-Agreement
    (pp. 5-14)

    This book deals with how to derive the obligatory nature of agreement. To have a meaningful discussion on this topic, we must demarcate which empirical phenomena fall under the heading ofagreementin the first place. Traditionally, this term was used to refer to a relatively well-defined pattern: morphophonologically overt covariance between verbs, or verb-like elements (such as tense/aspect/mood (TAM) markers), and one or more core arguments in the clause (usually nominals).

    In the linguistic literature of the last couple of decades, however, the use of this term has expanded: agreement, and/or the theoretical machinery used to derive it (in...

  8. 3 Agreement in the Kichean Agent-Focus Construction: The Facts
    (pp. 15-28)

    In this chapter, I examine the behavior of verbal agreement in the Agent-Focus construction in the Kichean languages of the Mayan family. This construction will prove to be a very useful testing ground for the different models of agreement outlined in chapter 2. A comparison between these different models in light of agreement in the Kichean Agent-Focus construction will be taken up in chapter 5; but before we can carry out such a comparison, we must acquaint ourselves with the facts.

    In section 3.1, I outline the basics of agreement in Kichean and introduce the Agent-Focus construction itself. In section...

  9. 4 A Derivational Account of Absolutive Agreement in Kichean
    (pp. 29-84)

    In this chapter, I present a derivational account of (absolutive) φ-agreement in Kichean. As I will show, this account derives the behavior of agreement in the Kichean Agent-Focus (AF) construction, discussed in chapter 3, as well as the distribution of the same agreementmarkers in regular transitive and intransitive clauses in Kichean.

    The proposal will be based on Béjar and Rezac’s (2003) account of thePerson Case Constraint(PCC; also known as the*Me-LuiConstraint), a particular restriction on the distribution of person features among multiple internal arguments of the same predicate. The PCC differs from the Kichean facts considered here...

  10. 5 Derivational Time-Bombs: Inadequate for Deriving the Obligatoriness of φ-Agreement
    (pp. 85-102)

    In light of the detailed investigation of the Kichean Agent-Focus (AF) construction in chapters 3—4, I am now in a position to present the argument againstderivational time-bombs(section 2.2.1) as the means of deriving the obligatoriness of φ-agreement (as in Chomsky’s (2000, 2001) “interpretability”-based proposal, for example). This argument is the focus of the current chapter.

    I begin, in section 5.1, by laying out the argument from number agreement in Kichean AF against a derivational time-bombs account. In section 5.2, I present a second argument, very similar in form, based on person agreement in the same construction. Finally,...

  11. 6 Two More Case Studies in Failed Agreement
    (pp. 103-122)

    In this chapter, I present two more case studies in failed-but-tolerated agreement in grammatical utterances (failed agreement, as defined in section 2.1). The first involves the interaction of two morphosyntactic properties in Zulu: theconjoint/disjointalternation in Zulu verbal morphology and the distribution of nouns lacking the nominalaugmentmorpheme. The second involves simplex (i.e., nonperiphrastic) unergative verbs in Basque.

    These case studies provide further support for the conclusions reached in chapter 5: that failed agreement results only in the features on the probe(s) going unvalued, not in ungrammaticality (or any kind of “crash”). This, despite the fact that the...

  12. 7 On “Salience” Hierarchies and Scales
    (pp. 123-128)

    In chapter 4, I offered a comprehensive account of φ-agreement in the Kichean Agent-Focus (AF) construction. This account was able to derive the AF person restriction (section 3.3) and the morphophonological distinctions between 1st/2nd person agreement markers and 3rd person ones (section 3.4). But perhaps most importantly, it derived the apparent “salience” effects found in this construction. As noted in section 3.2, agreement in Kichean AF appears to obey a “salience” hierarchy or scale, as given in (146).

    (146) 1st/2nd person > 3rd person plural > 3rd person singular [=(23)] If the AF clause contains a 1st/2nd person argument, that...

  13. 8 Datives, Defective Intervention, and Case Discrimination
    (pp. 129-176)

    In this chapter, I turn to another phenomenon that bears the hallmarks of failed agreement—one that actually features much more prominently in the literature on φ-agreement than the patterns discussed so far—namely,dative intervention

    Decriptively, this term refers to instances where a particular phrase—in most of the cases discussed, a dative nominal or PP—is able to block agreement from targeting a structurally lower noun phrase, but is nevertheless unable to transfer itsownφ-features to the agreement host. Whether such examples constitute a true failure of agreement is a matter of analysis, of course, and this...

  14. 9 Where’s φ? In Syntax.
    (pp. 177-214)

    In this chapter, I will argue that φ-agreement is part of syntax. While this may seem like an obvious point from certain perspectives, recall that φ-agreement was shown byBobaljik (2008) to operate on the basis of “morphological case”—which I have termed thecase discriminationproperty of φ-agreement. The latter has been argued to be postsyntactic, computed within the morphological component of grammar (Marantz 1991). This proposal, in turn, has been used by Bobaljik to argue that φ-agreement itself is postsyntactic.

    The significance of this issue in the current context lies in how the results of chapters 5—8 are...

  15. 10 Extensions and Outlook
    (pp. 215-238)

    We have seen in the previous chapters that φ-agreement adheres to the logic ofobligatory operations: its obligatory naturecannotbe reduced to representational properties of the structure it operates upon, or those that it leaves in its wake (as detailed in chapter 5, in particular). Instead, the φ-agreement operation—which I have labeled FINDφ—must be directly afforded obligatory status by the grammar.

    There is an inherent tension between these results and what many contemporary frameworks take the logic of syntactic computation to be. For concreteness, I will concentrate here on approaches that fall within the purview of the...

  16. 11 Conclusion
    (pp. 239-242)

    In this book, I have presented arguments that the obligatory nature of φ-agreement is best captured in terms of anoperation—one that is obligatorily triggered, but whose successful culmination is not enforced by the grammar.

    The central empirical domain has been the behavior of φ-agreement in the Agent-Focus construction in languages of the Kichean branch of the Mayan language family. As I have shown, this construction cannot be analyzed without allowing for the possibility of failed agreement in utterances that are nonetheless fully grammatical. This, in turn, rules out an account that would derive the obligatoriness of φ-agreement in...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 243-262)
  18. References
    (pp. 263-280)
  19. Series List
    (pp. 281-286)
  20. Index
    (pp. 287-292)