The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 4/2 - Rafael Abramovitz and Itai Bassi (MIT)

Speaker: Rafael Abramovitz and Itai Bassi (MIT)
Title: Relativized Anaphor Agreement Effect: Evidence from Koryak
Time: Tuesday, 4/2, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, we discuss the Anaphor Agreement Effect (AAE), an observation first proposed in Rizzi (1990) to the effect that anaphors do not trigger phi-agreement. We report on novel data from Koryak, a Chukotko-Kamchatkan language of the Russian Far East, which we claim constitutes a particularly revealing partial counterexample to previous formulations of the AAE. Specifically, we show that the Koryak anaphor uvik triggers obligatory number agreement consistent with its binder, but never triggers person agreement consistent with it. We therefore propose that the AAE is limited to preventing anaphors from triggering covarying person agreement, but that it does not block number (or gender) agreement. Our account of this combines arguments from recent work by Omer Preminger on the AAE, as well converging evidence about the syntax of phi-features from Moskal (2015), Harbour (2016), and van Urk (2018). Following Preminger (2019), we take the AAE to be the result of the way that anaphors are structured: they contain a head Anaph that blocks agreement into its complement. However, to account for the Koryak facts (as well as other partial counterexamples to the AAE discussed in Murugesan (2018)), we deviate from Preminger’s proposal by allowing languages to vary with respect to where Anaph merges along the pronominal spine. In languages like Koryak, where anaphors trigger number agreement, Anaph merges below Num, whereas in languages like Albanian, where they trigger only 3SG agreement (Woolford 1999, Run Chen p.c.), it merges above Num. Following Moskal (2015) et. seq., we take person to be the most embedded phi-feature, forcing agreement with it to be blocked by Anaph regardless of how low it merges. Finally, we propose a compositional semantics for the Anaph head that explains how its presence gives rise to co-reference between the two arguments of the relevant predicate.