[Lingtyp] Verbal person-number indexing

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Wed Jun 20 18:00:32 UTC 2018

Thanks, Grev, for joining the discussion, which is actually more properly typological than the issue of reconstructed person indexes.

Despite Barlow (1992), "agreement" remains insufficiently understood in typology, and it's interesting that in generative typology, a new notion of "concord" has become more prominent recently in generative typology (e.g. Bay?rl? 2017, Norris 2017). It's actually not easy to see how concord and person indexing can be subsumed under the same more abstract notion.

Let me ask: Would we be happy to say that English has agreement in definiteness? E.g. "[the big] [DEF house]", where "the" copies or cumulates the DEF feature. Of course, the DEF element preceding "house" is not overt, but from the perspective of an Arab or Hebrew grammarian, it's perfectly natural to assume that it's there, abstractly ("DEF-dropped", cf. Arabic al-baytu (a)l-kabiiru, Hebrew ha-bayit ha-gadol, where we see the DEF expressed both on the noun and on the adjective).

Likewise, from the perspective of German, it's natural to say that in Spanish [ICH quier-o] 'I want', the element -o copies or cumulates information from the abstract element ICH (1SG), which is not normally pronounced ("pro-dropped").

But somehow both of these views seem strange -- certainly not impossible, but for a typologist who is aware of the rarity of the Arabic/Hebrew and German/English patterns, other ways of approaching these situations would seem much more natural. (For non-free-standing person forms, i.e. person indexes, I discussed in this in my2013 paper  <https://zenodo.org/record/1294059>  in the Siewierska memorial volume.)



Bay?rl?, I.sa Kerem. 2017. The universality of concord. Cambridge MA: 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD dissertation. 
http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/113785 (20 June, 2018).

Norris, Mark. 2017. Description and analyses of nominal concord (Pt I). 
/Language and Linguistics Compass/ 11(11). e12266. 
doi:10.1111/lnc3.12266 <https://doi.org/10.1111/lnc3.12266>.

On 20.06.18 18:51, g.corbett at surrey.ac.uk wrote:
> Your usage was fine. There's no need to turn the clock back and talk 
> about agreement as "copying". We've seen since at least Mike Barlow's 
> thesis (1988) that it makes sense to think of agreement as the 
> cumulation of (partial) information. Then the presence of nominal 
> elements is a separate issue. We know that there are plenty of 
> situations between obligatory presence and obligatory absence of such 
> elements, so we shouldn't tangle up the two things.  So your term was 
> fine (and it's certainly not the case that the terminology depends on 
> English or German). But this is a change of topic, and it would be 
> good to leave it and to get back to the interesting one.
> Very best, Grev
>> On 20 Jun 2018, at 17:18, David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de 
>> <mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>> wrote:
>> In my previous posting, my use of the term "person agreement" was 
>> imprecise, as I think Martin is implying: in the Austronesian cases 
>> that I am familiar with, the "conominal" (to use Martin's term from 
>> his "Argument Indexing" paper) is indeed optional, not obligatory as 
>> in German and English.
>> On 20/06/2018 13:38, Martin Haspelmath wrote:
>>> Changing the topic a bit: I'm glad that the term "person(-number) 
>>> indexing" is being used in this discussion, because "agreement in 
>>> person" seems to be extremely rare in the world's languages (found 
>>> only in Germanic, Romance, and Anejom, according to Siewierska 1999: 
>>> 239).
>>> Many linguists use the term "agreement" in situations like Spanish 
>>> "yo quier-o", even though in almost all languages with person 
>>> indexes the independent personal pronoun is only used to emphasize 
>>> the referent. This seems to be motivated primarily by the situation 
>>> in German and English, where the pronoun is indeed obligtory and the 
>>> verb can be said to copy its person-number features from the pronoun.
>>> Or am I missing something? Are there other reasons to use the term 
>>> "person agreement", e.g. in the Austronesian languages of eastern 
>>> Indonesia that David mentions?
>>> Best,
>>> Martin
>>> *********
>>> Reference
>>> Siewierska, Anna. 1999. From anaphoric pronoun to grammatical 
>>> agreement marker: Why objects don't make it. /Folia Linguistica/ 
>>> 33(1--2). 225--252.
>>> On 20.06.18 09:36, David Gil wrote:
>>>> Ilja,
>>>> This is not exactly what you're asking for, but perhaps close 
>>>> enough to be of interest. Austronesian languages typically do not 
>>>> have verbal person-number subject indexes; however, in many 
>>>> Austronesian languages of eastern Indonesia, verbal agreement has 
>>>> arisen, and, for the most part, the markers in question are clearly 
>>>> reconstructable to the earlier Austronesian independent pronouns.
>>>> Best,
>>>> David
>>>> On 19/06/2018 21:52, Ilja Serz(ant wrote:
>>>>> Dear all,
>>>>> I am looking for families (or subfamilies with a larger time 
>>>>> depth) for which verbal person-number subject indexes / 
>>>>> "agreement" affixes (featuring the intransitive subject for 
>>>>> ergative lgs.) are reconstructed. (I already have data on 
>>>>> Dravidian, Semitic, Indo-European, Maya, Finno-Ugric and Turkic 
>>>>> but I need more for my study on the dynamics of these).
>>>>> I would be very grateful for any reference.
>>>>> Best,
>>>>> Ilja
>>> -- 
>>> Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
>>> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
>>> Kahlaische Strasse 10	
>>> D-07745 Jena
>>> &
>>> Leipzig University
>>> IPF 141199
>>> Nikolaistrasse 6-10
>>> D-04109 Leipzig
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Lingtyp mailing list
>>> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
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>> -- 
>> David Gil
>> Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
>> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
>> Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany
>> Email:gil at shh.mpg.de
>> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
>> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
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Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10	
D-07745 Jena
Leipzig University
IPF 141199
Nikolaistrasse 6-10
D-04109 Leipzig

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