Agreement and semantic concord: a spurious unification
Omer Preminger, Maria Polinsky
February 2015

This paper argues against the spate of recent proposals aiming to reverse the direction of the formal operation underlying agreement in phi-features. We contend that these proposals are an outgrowth of a reasonable -- but ultimately, ill-fated -- urge to reduce any and all correspondence between two elements (be it agreement, or semantic concord) to the same underlying operation. In other words, they constitute a spurious unification.

We focus here on Bjorkman & Zeijlstra's (2014) recent "hybrid" proposal ( -- which is, in title, an attempt to argue for the reversal of agreement, but which sanctions both directions of agreement under different sets of circumstances, for the sake of unifying phi-feature agreement with semantic concord. First, we address instances where Bjorkman & Zeijlstra attempt to argue from data that, upon closer inspection, fail to distinguish regular from reverse agreement. These include fully local agreement (in Bantu), whose irrelevance to the debate was already noted in Preminger 2013; and agreement asymmetries between SV and VS word orders.

Next, we address long-distance agreement (LDA) in Tsez and in Basque, the two empirical domains put forth in Preminger 2013 as challenges to reverse agreement. Bjorkman & Zeijlstra attempt to reanalyze these two domains within their hybrid system. We present empirical and conceptual arguments against their analysis. We then review further crosslinguistic evidence demonstrating the same basic point: that a reversal in the direction of agreement is empirically unsupported.

Finally, we argue that even if it were successful, Bjorkman & Zeijlstra's proposal would not have achieved what such a unification sets out to achieve: a reduction in the amount of machinery required in the overall theory. Instead, they have to propose several principles which overgenerate and make incorrect predictions.

Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/002363
(please use that when you cite this article)
keywords: agreement, case, long-distance agreement, lda, opacity, tsez, basque, algonquian, bantu, sv-vs asymmetries, syntax
previous versions: v3 [January 2015]
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