Person effects in agreement with Icelandic low nominatives: An experimental investigation

Caroline Heycock*, Jutta Hartmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper investigates agreement—in particular person agreement—in two configurations in Icelandic where there are two potential controllers of agreement and where at least in some cases agreement is with the lower of the two (a “low nominative”). One case is the DATIVE-NOMINATIVE construction, where there is a dative subject and a lower nominative argument. The other is the SPECIFICATIONAL COPULAR CLAUSE (SCC) construction, where there are two nominative arguments. A much-discussed aspect of agreement in the former case is that agreement in number with the low nominative is generally possible, but agreement in person is at best highly restricted, leading in some cases to ineffability. This person effect has been claimed to be ameliorated by syncretism in the agreement paradigm, but there is limited data available substantiating this effect, which is however crucial to deciding between two recent types of account. This paper reports on a pair of experimental rating studies on the DAT-NOM and SCC configurations in Icelandic. We show that, taken together, the two sets of data provide evidence against the Person Licensing Condition and in favour of an account of the DAT-NOM construction in terms of morphological conflict arising from double agreement, although we show that the ameliorating effect of morphological syncretism, while real, is limited. Further, we show that there is no evidence of double agreement in the copular clauses investigated. We argue that full agreement with the low nominative here arises if the first nominal can move out of the domain of agreement entirely. The possibility of agreement with the initial nominal we suggest indicates that nominatives, unlike datives, cause the search of the agreement probe to terminate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
Early online date27 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Icelandic
  • copula
  • Person Licensing Condition (PLC)
  • person case constraint
  • syntax
  • syncretism
  • agreement


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