Verb agreement in definiteness

Frans Plank Frans.Plank at UNI-KONSTANZ.DE
Mon Nov 22 15:58:46 UTC 1999

>Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 10:47:21 -0500
>From: ph1u at
>To: Frans Plank <Frans.Plank at>
>cc: ph1u at
>Subject: Verb agreement in definiteness
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>When I attempt to send a posting to LINGTYP, it comes back telling me I'm
>not authorized to do so! Could I ask you to forward this to LINGTYP?
>Thanks, and best wishes,
>Dear LINGTYPers,
>The discussion of definiteness agreement has presupposed a purely
>morphological situation in which verbs show morphological agreement with
>definite NPs. There has been little recognition of the problematical
>nature of the term "definite", and the discussion seems to assume that a
>translation with the English definite article "the" exhausts the
>possibilities. In fact we need to consider discourse anaphoricity, and
>general (pragmatic?) constraints on verbs and objects. Regarding the latter,
>"even" English shows contrasts like
>They drank 0/some/the beer
>They drank up the beer/they drank the beer up
>*They drank up beer/*they drank beer up
>I'm not suggesting these are examples of definiteness agreement, of
>course, but just that we may need to look a little beyond simple
>morphology and that there may be a discourse dimension to all this. Sandy
>Thompson and I discussed some of these issues in our 1980 paper on
>Transitivity (Language 1980).
>Paul Hopper

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