The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 4/28 - Sarah Ouwayda

Speaker: Sarah Ouwayda
Time: Thursday, April 28, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461
Title: Systematic Optional Non-Agreement in Lebanese Arabic


I look at two cases of optional non-agreement in Lebanese Arabic (LA), an otherwise agreement-rich language. First, I look at optional non-agreement in number marking on adjectives, verbs, and pronouns, following cardinals and quantifiers in LA as well as in Armenian and Basque. In the presence of multiple agreeing elements, this optionality is restricted. I look at these restrictions and compare two syntactic accounts: one which assumes a traditional undivided DP structure, and explains the (non-)agreement facts by proposing an optional pluralizing functional node which triggers agreement and contributes semantic plurality; and another account which assumes a split DP (cf. Sportiche 2005), such that NP is in SpecV and raises to merge with the quantifier in D/Q somewhere higher in the clause. Assuming a split DP, the noun can theoretically compose with the verb either (i) before moving to the quantifier, resulting in non-agreement (and distributivity), or (ii) after moving to the quantifier, resulting in plural agreement. I also look at another case of optional non-agreement, this time in VSO word order. I argue that the two cases of non-agreement are different: in the former, the subject is known, and the agreement patterns depend on its properties, whereas in the latter, the subject may either be the apparent subject or an expletive subject.