Definiteness and Verb

Dunstan Brown d.brown at SURREY.AC.UK
Thu Nov 18 09:36:02 UTC 1999

Dear Edith,

Many thanks for pointing us to the Abkhaz examples.

In relation to your question about why it is not to be expected that there be a

language where the verb agrees with the direct object in definiteness, the
answer is that the question arose from an interest in determining the inventory
possible agreement features, including the question about how one
knows what an agreement feature is when one sees one.  From this point
of view definiteness is very interesting.

Definiteness is sometimes given as an agreement feature, but its status
is not clear. If we take it to be a feature of NPs, then an NP
may be marked as definite in more than one place, and we would have a
coincidence of form, rather than one agreeing with the other.

The question is therefore difficult to resolve just by looking at the NP.
If definiteness is an agreement feature, then we would expect to find it on
other targets (such as the verb). If it's not an agreement feature, then it
won't appear on the verb.

Julia Barron, Dunstan Brown, Greville Corbett

Edith A Moravcsik wrote:

> Many thanks for the very useful summary of the discussion on Hungarian
> verb conjugations by Julia Barron. - I have one question: why is it
> not to be expected that there be a language where the verb agrees with
> the direct object in definiteness?
>    ************************************************************************
>                          Edith A. Moravcsik
>                          Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics
>                          University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
>                          Milwaukee, WI 53201-0413
>                          USA
>                          E-mail: edith at
>                          Telephone: (414) 229-6794 /office/
>                                     (414) 332-0141 /home/
>                          Fax: (414) 229-2741

Dr Dunstan Brown
Lecturer in Linguistics and Russian Language
University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 5XH
Tel: +44 1483 259957
Fax: +44 1483 259527
Email: d.brown at

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