query: V/N parallels in agreement paradigms

David Gil gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Sat Feb 16 13:44:21 UTC 2008

Dear all,

This query is about cross-categorial parallels in agreement paradigms, 
in particular those pertaining to verbs and nouns. In many languages, 
(subject or object) agreement markings on verbs are similar or identical 
in form to possessor markings on nouns. In Roon (an Austronesian 
language of West Papua), a rather different kind of parallelism is 
evident, represented schematically as follows:

(SUBJ) agr-V

In the above, agr represents a prefix encoding agreement with respect to 
person, number (singular/dual/plural) and (for 3rd person) gender 
(animate/inanimate). Whereas in the former, clausal case the controller 
of agreement is the subject NP and its target the verb, in the latter, 
phrasal case the controller of agreement is the noun itself and its 
target the determiner. The agreement prefixes are pretty much the same 
in both cases, the main difference being that the agr-V complex is an 
independent word whereas the agr-DET complex is an enclitic which 
attaches to the right edge of the NP.

(Disclaimer: the above account is based on very preliminary field work 
and reflects an interim understanding of the facts; it should not be 
cited in written publications.)

My question: how common is it cross-linguistically for there to be an 
apparently complete parallelism between Subject-Verb and Noun-Determiner 
agreement? Have any other similar cases been documented? (I am familiar 
only with a description of similar facts in closely-related Biak in a 
recent PhD dissertation by Wilco van den Heuvel.) Of course, many 
languages have both Subject-Verb and Noun-Determiner agreement, but 
usually the agreeing features and/or the forms expressing the features 
are different.

Any comments, suggestions and pointers would be gratefully appreciated.



David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 
Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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