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Academic Paper


Title: Agreement, attraction and architectural opportunism
Author: Juan Carlos Acuña-Fariña
Institution: Universidade de Santiago de Compostela
Linguistic Field: Morphology; Psycholinguistics; Syntax
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to examine psycholinguistic work on with a view to enriching our knowledge of the grammar of agreement. Following Franck et al. (2006), I assume that the different theories of agreement should relate to the way speakers err when they implement agreement operations. As an aberrant computation of the mind, attraction is interesting due to its frequency: in English experiments 13% of complex NPs (i.e. NPs which consist of two or more constituent NPs) establish incorrect agreement with the verb (as in *the key to the cabinets are in the kitchen; Eberhard, Cooper Cutting & Bock 2005). This is what makes it a magnet for both linguistic and psycholinguistic research. Here I examine the main findings and models in the psycholinguistic literature, and how they relate to existing theories of agreement in grammar. It will be argued that agreement cannot be properly understood unless models incorporate an adequate measurement of the size of the morphological component of every language studied, as agreement operations are continuously sensitive to this. The general idea, which I extend from Berg (1998) and Acuña-Fariña (2009) is that a strong morphosyntactic component blocks (rather than facilitates) semantic interference, and that languages opportunistically use more or less semantics in establishing agreement ties depending not only on morphological richness but also on the direction of encoding.

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This article appears IN Journal of Linguistics Vol. 48, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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