Agreement in Germanic
Agreement in Germanic
- Haldór Ármann SigurðssonHaldór Ármann SigurðssonUniversity of Lund
There are four major types of agreement in Germanic: finite verb agreement, primary predicate agreement, secondary predicate agreement, and DP-internal concord, and there is extensive variation among the Germanic languages across all these agreement phenomena. Icelandic commonly has five distinct person/number forms of verbs, while Afrikaans and the mainland Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish) have no person/number distinctions of verbs, with the other languages positioning themselves between these extremes. Standard varieties of West-Germanic languages (Afrikaans, Dutch, English, German, Yiddish, West-Frisian,) have no predicate agreement, whereas standard varieties of Scandinavian languages (Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish) all have both primary and secondary predicate agreement. There is, however, quite some variation in predicate agreement within the Scandinavian languages. The Mainland Scandinavian languages have gender/number agreement of both primary and secondary predicates, albeit with some variation as to whether only predicative adjectives or both predicative adjectives and past participles show agreement (and also as to when past participles show agreement). The Insular Scandinavian languages (Faroese and Icelandic), on the other hand, have case agreement, in addition to gender/number agreement, of both primary and secondary predicates, either adjectives or past participles (e.g., Icelandic primary predicate agreement: “He.nom.m.sg was drunk.nom.m.sg”; secondary predicate agreement: “She.nom.f.sg met him.acc.m.sgdrunk.acc.m.sg” [he was drunk] versus. “She.nom.f.sg met him.acc.m.sgdrunk.nom.f.sg” [she was drunk]). Case agreement in these two languages commonly disambiguates secondary predicate structures. Afrikaans has no concord of DP-internal modifiers (articles, adjectives, etc.), whereas the other West-Germanic languages have some DP-concord, poorest in English, richest in German (which has gender/number/case concord of a number of categories, most clearly the articles). The Mainland Scandinavian languages also have some DP-concord (gender/number), while DP-concord is extensive in Faroese and Icelandic (gender/number/case of articles, demonstrative determiners, adjectives, some numerals, indefinite pronouns, floating quantifiers, and some possessive pronouns).
The Germanic languages are a relatively small and closely knit language family, so the extensive agreement variation within this small family is a major challenge to any general theory of agreement.
- Language Families/Areas/Contact