Academic journal article Suvremena Lingvistika

Agreement in Role and Reference Grammar: A Typology of Possible Targets/Srocnost U Okviru Gramatike Uloga I Referenci: Tipologija Mogucih Ciljeva Srocnosti

Academic journal article Suvremena Lingvistika

Agreement in Role and Reference Grammar: A Typology of Possible Targets/Srocnost U Okviru Gramatike Uloga I Referenci: Tipologija Mogucih Ciljeva Srocnosti

Article excerpt

1. Is there a RRG theory of Agreement?

Role and Reference Grammar (RRG) is one of the most important functionalist, typologically-oriented syntactic theories in contemporary linguistics. (1) It has been successfully applied to many languages and to a large number of syntactic phenomena, but very little work in the RRG framework has been dedicated to agreement. Only two references in the RRG Bibliography Online ( contain the word "agreement" and none contain the word "concord" (the term largely synonymous with "agreement" in traditional grammar). Works in the RRG framework that do treat agreement (e.g. Kailuweit 2008, Belloro 2012, Bentley, Ciconte and Crus 2013) discuss specific issues, such as grammatical relations that trigger agreement ("Privileged Syntactic Arguments" (PSAs) or semantic macroroles rather than the traditional notion of 'subject'), but do not develop a comprehensive theory of agreement. The intention of this paper is to present a sketch of a theory of agreement within the framework of RRG and to propose an implicational universal that can be formulated rather elegantly due to RRG's conception of the layered structure of the clause (cf., e.g., Van Valin 2005: 3-30). It is based on a sample of 300 languages from all continents and from more than fifty families (Matasovic, in press).

For reasons of space, we shall assume that the reader has some basic knowledge of the key concepts of RRG, such as the Layered Structure of the Clause (LSC), the distinction between the Operator Projection (OP) and the Constituent Projection (CP), etc. (for these notions see Van Valin and LaPolla 1997, Van Valin 2005).

2. What is Agreement?

Agreement is a "systematic covariance between a semantic or formal property of one element and a formal property of another" (Corbett 2006: 4, cf. also Moravcsik 1978, 1988, Wechsler 2015: 309). This definition can also be stated in more formal terms:

The target Y agrees with the controller X in the syntactic domain D if and only if the presence of the feature A on X triggers the presence of A on Y if both X and Y are in the domain D.

In the remainder of this paper, we shall be using the key terms mentioned in that definition; they can be illustrated in the following example from Croatian:

(1) Marija vol-i zgodn-e decke-e Marija love-3SG.PRES beautiful-ACC.PL boy-ACC.P "Marija loves handsome boys" (2)

In (1), the subject (or "PSA") Marija is the controller of agreement in the features person and number on the verb (voli), which is the target. The domain of person/number agreement is the clause; the head noun djevojke is the controller of number/case agreement on the adjective (zgodne), which is the target of this agreement pattern, and its domain is the noun phrase (NP).

This definition of agreement can easily be used in the RRG framework, and serve as a basis for the theory of agreement. A RRG theory of agreement should: a) capture all of the universal features of agreement systems without imposing features on languages in which there is no evidence for them, and b) represent comparable patterns of agreement in different languages in comparable ways (cf. Van Valin 2005: 3 on a general theory of clause structure). Our definition allows us not only to compare agreement systems across languages, but also to capture important differences of agreement patterns found in different languages, e.g. the differences in possible targets and controllers, the differences in syntactic domains showing agreement, and the differences in grammatical features involved in agreement.

In typological literature on agreement (e.g. Corbett 2006, Matasovic 2014, Wechsler 2015) the clause and the noun phrase are usually claimed to be the principal domains in which this syntactic process is manifested. Thus, English is said to have number agreement in the domain of the NP (this flower vs. …

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