Verbal agreement with NP-internal modifiers

Felicity Meakins f.meakins at UQ.EDU.AU
Wed Sep 3 22:48:06 UTC 2014

Dear Tasaku,

Thanks very much. We had indeed noticed this construction across Ngumpin-Yapa languages – thus far examples in Gurindji, Bilinarra, Ngarinyman, Jaru, Walmajarri, Mudburra and Warlpiri. As far as we have found, it seems to be restricted to this group in Australia, but we are happy to hear otherwise!

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From: Tasaku Tsunoda <tsunoda at NINJAL.AC.JP<mailto:tsunoda at NINJAL.AC.JP>>
Reply-To: Tasaku Tsunoda <tsunoda at NINJAL.AC.JP<mailto:tsunoda at NINJAL.AC.JP>>
Date: Wednesday, 3 September 2014 11:27 pm
Subject: Re: Verbal agreement with NP-internal modifiers

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<mailto:racheln at UNIMELB.EDU.AU>>
Reply-To: Rachel Nordlinger <racheln at UNIMELB.EDU.AU<mailto: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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