Verbal agreement with NP-internal modifiers

Tasaku Tsunoda tsunoda at NINJAL.AC.JP
Wed Sep 3 13:27:26 UTC 2014

Dear Rachel,

    Please see pp. 140-141 of the following book of mine:

Tsunoda, Tasaku. 1981. The Djaru language of Kimberley, Western Australia.
Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

    I discussed a phenomenon that may be relevant to your search.
    However, the data available were severely limited, and my analysis is
highly tentative.

Tasaku Tsunoda

From:  Rachel Nordlinger <racheln at UNIMELB.EDU.AU>
Reply-To:  Rachel Nordlinger <racheln at UNIMELB.EDU.AU>
Date:  2014年8月22日金曜日 14:53
Subject:  Verbal agreement with NP-internal modifiers

Dear LINGTYP-ers,

I am looking for languages in which verbal and/or clause-level agreement
morphology (or bound pronoun system) is able to cross-reference an internal
NP modifier. In other words, constructions where the agreement morphology is
not cross-referencing the NP itself, but something inside the NP.  External
possession constructions may appear to be an instance of this, but there is
usually good evidence not to treat the possessor (which is cross-referenced)
as an internal NP modifier in these cases, but rather to treat it as the
argument of the verb itself (hence the traditional term ‘possessor
raising’).  So I am not after examples like this.

Rather, what I am looking for are examples in which the cross-referenced
element can be clearly shown to still be internal to the NP, even though it
is cross-referenced.  Consider the following example from Gurindji
(Australia) (data courtesy of Dr. Felicity Meakins):

(1)          [Ngayinyb-ju       karu-ngku]a   ngu=yib=lua
tawirrjip      pa-ni           marluka-wu         kurrurij.

            1MIN.DAT-ERG     child-ERG       AUX=1MIN.O=3AUG.S      pelt
hit-PST        car

     My children pelted the old man's car (with rocks).

In this example there are two cross-referencing bound pronouns: -lu which
cross-references the (augmented number) subject ‘My children’, and –yi which
cross-references the possessor internal to the subject ‘my'.  That the
possessor remains a modifier within the subject NP is shown clearly by the
fact that it carries dative case, and agrees with the head noun ‘child-ERG’
in ergative case as well.  Thus, what we have here is a construction in
which an NP-internal modifier is cross-referenced with morphology otherwise
reserved for clausal arguments.

I am aware of an old paper by Stump and Yadav (1988) that discusses data
from Maithili very similar to the Gurindji case shown above, and the brief
discussion of ‘verb agreement with possessives’ in Corbett (2006: 61) which
mentions a couple of languages including Jarawara and Tabasaran.  However, I
am keen to find more examples, if possible.

If any of you are aware of other languages that do something like this, I
would appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction.  If there
is sufficient interest, I will post a summary.



Corbett, Greville G. 2006. Agreement. Cambridge: CUP.
Stump, Gregory and Ramawatar Yadav. 1988. Maithili verb agreement and the
control agreement principle. Linguistics Faculty Publications, Paper 37.

Rachel Nordlinger
Associate Professor and Reader
School of Languages and Linguistics
University of Melbourne
VIC 3010

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