The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch Special Session 4/19 - Caroline Heycock

Speaker: Caroline Heycock (University of Edinburgh)
Title: The problem is agreement
Date/Time: Friday, Apr 19, 3-4p (Note special date and time)
Location: 32-D461

In his recent colloquium, Marcel den Dikken outlined some of the striking – and different – agreement patterns that are found in English and Dutch in the kind of specificational sentences in (1):

1. a. The problem is your parents.
    b. The culprit is you.

2. onze grootste zorg {zijn/*is} de kinderen
     our biggest worry {are/*is} the children
     `Our biggest worry is the children.’

The requirement for number agreement with the second DP in Dutch (even in contexts which exclude V2) seems to accord well with the proposal that in these cases the initial DP is a predicate, as in the influential analysis developed by from Williams 1983, Partee 1987, Heggie 1988, Moro 1997 and many others.

In this talk I will present current work, much of it done in collaboration with Jutta Hartmann (Tübingen) in which we have begun to explore the agreement possibilities of these sentences in a number of different Germanic languages, and I will argue that while the facts indeed support an inversion analysis of specificational sentences, the initial nominal does not in fact show the properties of a predicate of the usual kind, but instead behaves like a Concealed Question, as proposed in Romero (2005, 2007).