Verbal agreement with NP-internal modifiers

Claire Bowern clairebowern at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 4 00:23:33 UTC 2014

Hi Felicity,
I mentioned this off-list to Rachel, but it's also found in Bardi (but
not the other Nyulnyulan languages as far as I know). The possessor is
marked on the verb and may co-occur with an oblique argument (=
indirect object). Before anyone mentions language contact, though,
it's likely to have arisen recently in Bardi (it's not attested in the
materials from the 1920s as far as I know) as part of a rapid set of
changes which led to Bardi showing more characteristics of
polysynthesis than its relatives. Also, while Bardi is in the same
general vicinity of Ngumpin-Yapa languages, it was never in contact
with them.

On Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 6:48 PM, Felicity Meakins <f.meakins at> wrote:
> 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!
> Felicity
> _________________________________________
> Linguistics | SLCCS | University of Queensland |
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> RM 517 | Gordon Greenwood Bldg (32) |
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> web
> From: Tasaku Tsunoda <tsunoda at NINJAL.AC.JP>
> Reply-To: Tasaku Tsunoda <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>
> 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.
> Thanks,
> Rachel
> 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
> +61-(0)3-8344-4227

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