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Language Planning as a Sociolinguistic Experiment

By: Ernst Jahr

Provides richly detailed insight into the uniqueness of the Norwegian language development. Marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian nation following centuries of Danish rule

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Acquiring Phonology: A Cross-Generational Case-Study

By Neil Smith

The study also highlights the constructs of current linguistic theory, arguing for distinctive features and the notion 'onset' and against some of the claims of Optimality Theory and Usage-based accounts.

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Language Production and Interpretation: Linguistics meets Cognition

By Henk Zeevat

The importance of Henk Zeevat's new monograph cannot be overstated. [...] I recommend it to anyone who combines interests in language, logic, and computation [...]. David Beaver, University of Texas at Austin

Query Details

Query Subject:   Origin of Agreement Systems
Author:   Greville Corbett
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Historical Linguistics

Query:   In an influential paper, Givón (1976) argued that verb agreement arises
from anaphoric pronouns (schematically, the man, he arrived > the man
he-arrived). The idea was not completely new, but it was Givón who
presented a developed and convincing case. We might have expected this
paper to stimulate the publication of a lot of supporting evidence, but my
impression is that this has not happened. There are examples, such as
Harris (2002), who argues for a pronominal origin for person markers in
Udi, but such studies are not plentiful.

Givón suggested that head-modifier agreement develops from verb agreement,
but gives less space to this. A different source was suggested by Greenberg
(1978), offering evidence from Daly languages that general classifiers are
a possible source. This is made more plausible by Reid's (1997) account of
Ngan’gityemmeri (Daly family).

So my QUESTION: are there further detailed accounts of the rise of
agreement? That is, are there descriptions of a language without agreement
at an earlier stage and the subsequent development of agreement? I am NOT
asking about extensions of agreement systems (e.g. a system with a number
feature with values singular and plural which then develops dual markers).
I am asking about languages lacking agreement at one stage which develop it
at a later stage.

I will of course post a summary if I am overwhelmed by examples.


Givón, Talmy. 1976. Topic, pronoun and grammatical agreement. In: Charles
N. Li (ed.) Subject and Topic, 149-88. New York: Academic Press.

Greenberg, Joseph H. 1978. How does a language acquire gender markers? In:
Joseph H. Greenberg, Charles A. Ferguson & Edith A. Moravcsik (eds)
Universals of Human Language: III: Word Structure, 47-82. Stanford:
Stanford University Press.

Harris, Alice C. 2002. Endoclitics and the Origins of Udi Morphosyntax.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reid, Nicholas. 1997. Class and classifier in Ngan’gityemmeri. In: Mark
Harvey & Nicholas Reid (eds) Nominal Classification in Aboriginal Australia
(Studies in language companion series 37), 165-228. Amsterdam: John
LL Issue: 16.645
Date posted: 04-Mar-2005


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