verb agreement in definiteness (fwd)

Gideon Goldenberg msgidgol at MSCC.HUJI.AC.IL
Sun Nov 21 03:17:51 UTC 1999

>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 16:24:38 -0600 (CST)
>From: Edith A Moravcsik <edith at>
>To: lingtyp at
>Subject: verb agreement in definiteness
>This is response to Dunstan Brown's message on verb agreement in
>definiteness as well as to two other messages on the topic that came
>directly to my address, by Elisabeth Leiss and Stefan Georg.
>Stefan Georg requested that I reproduce the data on Abkhaz from
>Whaley's book. Here are the two sentences cited (a tilde
>stands for the umlaut sign over the preceding vowel):
>   l. Kassa borsa-w-in      wa~ssa~da~-w
>      Kassa wallet-the-OBJ  took-it
>     'Kassa took the wallet.'
>   2. Kassa borsa  wa~ssa~da~
>      Kassa wallet took
>     'Kassa took a wallet.'
>Whaley adds: "If they /=direct objects/ are definite, an agreement

>Edith A. Moravcsik

The sentences here quoted are not Abkhaz but Amharic.
They represent the rather common construction with
proleptic object suffixes. Since a suffixed object
pronoun is necessarily definite (as independent
pronouns also usually are), the corresponding nominal
object should consequently be definite. It could be
said that a pronominal representative of the object
is incorporated in the verb-complex. "wässädäw" means
literally "he took it (or: him)", which makes anyway
a complete sentence by itself. On the occasion that
"agreement in definiteness" is so thoroughly discussed,
is it not time to reconsider seriously the appositive
nature of agreement in general?

Gideon  Goldenberg
48  Ben-Maimon Ave.
IL-92261 Jerusalem

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