The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 12/10: Tanya and Stan on leftover agreement

Speaker: Tanya Bondarenko, Stanislao Zompi’
Title: Leftover Agreement: spelling out number in Kartvelian languages
Date and time: Monday 12/10, 5-6pm
Location: 32-D831

In this talk, we present our work in progress in which we argue that sometimes probes agree with features on lower probes that have not yet been spelled out —- a mechanism we refer to as Leftover Agreement. We show that this mechanism is helpful in accounting for the verbal agreement paradigms in all four of the Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Laz, Megrelian, Svan). The main body of evidence comes from number agreement: we show configurations where a higher probe spells out plural features only if those features have failed to be spelled out by a lower probe. Here is a short illustration from Georgian:

(1) a.  gv-naxa                      b. g-naxa-t
          1PL-see.AOR.3SG            2-see.AOR.3SG-PL
          ‘He/she saw us.’              ‘He/she saw you (pl).’

The lower probe (the prefix) in (1a) spells out both first-person and plural features of the object, so the higher probe (the suffix) does not find anything left over to agree with. In (1b) however, the lower probe has spelled out only the person, but not the number feature of the object. This leftover feature is being agreed with and spelled out by a higher probe (the suffix -t).  
This alternation between synthetic and analytic exponence of number has previously been dealt with by morphological tools (Fission in Halle & Marantz 1993; templates in Harley & Lomashvili 2011; bottom-up nonterminal spellout in Blix 2016). By contrast, we argue for a fundamentally syntactic approach, which integrates insights from the theory of multiple spellout and of fine-grained probing.