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Head Movement and Morphological Strength  

Jan-Wouter Zwart

In the Principles and Parameters framework of Generative Grammar, the various positions occupied by the verb have been identified as functional heads hosting inflectional material (affixes or features), which may or may not attract the verb. This gave rise to a hypothesis, the Rich Agreement Hypothesis (RAH), according to which the verb has to move to the relevant functional head when the corresponding inflectional paradigm counts as “rich.” The RAH is motivated by synchronic and diachronic variation among closely related languages (mostly of the Germanic family) suggesting a correspondence between verb movement and rich agreement. Research into this correspondence was initially marred by the absence of a fundamental definition of “richness” and by the observation of counterexamples, both synchronically (dialects not conforming to the pattern) and diachronically (a significant time gap between the erosion of verbal inflection and the disappearance of verb movement). Also, the research was based on a limited group of related languages and dialects. This led to the conclusion that there was at best a weak correlation between verb movement and richness of morphology. Recently, the RAH has been revived in its strong form, proposing a fundamental definition of richness and testing the RAH against a typologically more diverse sample of the languages of the world. While this represents significant progress, several problems remain, with certain (current and past) varieties of North Germanic not conforming to the expected pattern, and the typological survey yielding mixed or unclear results. A further problem is that other Germanic languages (Dutch, German, Frisian) vary as to the richness of their morphology, but show identical verb placement patterns. This state of affairs, especially in light of recent minimalist proposals relocating both inflectional morphology and verb movement outside syntax proper (to a component in the model of grammar interfacing between narrow syntax and phonetic realization), suggests that we need a more fundamental understanding of the relation between morphology and syntax before any relation between head movement and morphological strength can be reliably ascertained.


Morphology and Pro Drop  

Olaf Koeneman and Hedde Zeijlstra

Many, and according to some estimates most, of the world’s languages allow the subject of the sentence to be unexpressed, a phenomenon known as ‘pro(noun) drop’. In a language like Italian, Gianni parla ‘Gianni speaks’ and Parla ‘(S)he speaks’ are both grammatical sentences. This is in contrast to a language like English, in which not expressing the subject leads to an ungrammatical sentence: *Speaks. The difference between being and not being able to leave the subject unexpressed (or, to put it differently, to have a ‘null subject’) has been related to the richness of the verbal paradigm of a language. Whereas Italian has six different agreement endings in the present tense, English only marks the third-person singular differently (with an -s affix, as in John speak-s). Although this correlation with rich agreement is pervasive, it does not successfully capture all the cross-linguistic variation that is attested. Languages like Japanese and Chinese, for instance, allow unexpressed arguments (including subjects) in the absence of any agreement. For these languages, it has been observed that their pronominal paradigms tend to have transparent, agglutinative nominal morphology, expressing case or number features. Trickier perhaps are languages that allow pro drop under certain conditions only. Some languages, such as Finnish or colloquial variants of German, allow it in certain but not all person/number contexts. Other languages, such as Icelandic, allow the subject to be unexpressed only if it is an expletive, the counterpart of English it (cf. It is raining) or there (There is a man in the garden). For these so-called partial pro drop languages, it is still unclear if one can relate their more restricted absence of overt subjects to other observable properties that they possess.


Kiowa-Tanoan Languages  

Daniel Harbour

The Kiowa-Tanoan family is a small group of Native American languages of the Plains and pueblo Southwest. It comprises Kiowa, of the eponymous Plains tribe, and the pueblo-based Tanoan languages, Jemez (Towa), Tewa, and Northern and Southern Tiwa. These free-word-order languages display a number of typologically unusual characteristics that have rightly attracted attention within a range of subdisciplines and theories. One word of Taos (my construction based on Kontak and Kunkel’s work) illustrates. In tóm-múlu-wia ‘I gave him/her a drum,’ the verb wia ‘gave’ obligatorily incorporates its object, múlu ‘drum.’ The agreement prefix tóm encodes not only object number, but identities of agent and recipient as first and third singular, respectively, and this all in a single syllable. Moreover, the object number here is not singular, but “inverse”: singular for some nouns, plural for others (tóm-músi-wia only has the plural object reading ‘I gave him/her cats’). This article presents a comparative overview of the three areas just illustrated: from morphosemantics, inverse marking and noun class; from morphosyntax, super-rich fusional agreement; and from syntax, incorporation. The second of these also touches on aspects of morphophonology, the family’s three-tone system and its unusually heavy grammatical burden, and on further syntax, obligatory passives. Together, these provide a wide window on the grammatical wealth of this fascinating family.