agreement (FUNK)

Soeren Wichmann soeren at CPHLING.DK
Wed Nov 22 09:41:24 UTC 1995

Dear folks,
in a recent query on the Linguist List I launched a hypothesis concerning
how to distinguish between pronouns and agreement in languages that lean
toward the head-marking type. The test I proposed was sentences of the type

        I brought the beans and John the rice.

My feeling was that a language might not allow the verb _brought_ to be
left out in any of the two clauses if the language had pronouns attached
to the verb--as opposed to just agreement markers. The reasoning was
common-sense: if a paraphrase of the clause with the missing element can
be constructed by supplying material from the corresponding slot in the
other clause, a typical head-marking language would disallow sentences as
the one above for the same reason that _John I brought the rice_ is
disallowed. By consulting the Linguist List, native speakers, and the
literature I found out that my hypothesis was probably wrong. Gapping
appears to be possible in all of the following languages:

Telugu, W. Greenlandic, Tundra Nenets, Japanese, Filipino (Tagalog),
Hungarian, Basque, Russian, French, West(erlauwer) Frisian, Dutch,
German, Finnish, French, Pitjantjatjara, Punjabi.

In some languages it is marginal:

English, Spanish.

Actually the strongest reaction I got against constructions of this kind
was from an English speaker. For a non-linguist Mexican it was fine,
two Mexican linguists has different opinions (good vs. not so good), and
a Nicaraguan and a Puerto Rican speaker both didn't like it much.

I am well aware of the inherent danger in building arguments from such
isolated sentences. Nevertheless, if a strong correlation between head-
vs. dependent-marking and possibility of gapping would come out of the
data, this would seem to be not just an accident of judgments. Although
my hypothesis has been shaken I would still like  to  ask you out there
for more data. So please translate

        I brought the beans and Peter brought the rice

into whatever language is not on the list above and note explicitly
whether any of the two verbs can be left out. I have still  to see a
language (other than perhaps English) that is completely unable to do
this. If for no other purpose you might want to check this because of the
claim in Ross (1970) that gapping is universal.

I welcome very much opinions on the issue of agreement vs. pronouns. A
few functionalists (Lehmann 1982:240 in one of the Apprehension volumes, Van
Valin 1987 in IJAL) have addressed the problem, but it is probably fair
to say that it hasn't been solved. Nichols, in her article in head- vs.
dependent marking, speaks of zero pronouns in languages that have
pronominal affixes on the predicate, and this, although unacceptable to many
(including myself) still seems to be the received opinion.

You may address your responses to me directly (2020sw at or
soeren at or to the entire Funknet. In either case I will
consider your comments in the summary that I'll post on the Linguist
List, which will also be sent to the Funknet.

Soeren Wichmann
Visiting Scholar, U. C. Santa Barbara

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