LINGUIST List 16.645

Fri Mar 04 2005

Qs: Identity in Balkans; Origin of Agreement Systems

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        1.    Harold Schiffman, Linguistic Identity in the Balkans
        2.    Greville Corbett, Origin of Agreement Systems

Message 1: Linguistic Identity in the Balkans

Date: 03-Mar-2005
From: Harold Schiffman <>
Subject: Linguistic Identity in the Balkans

The New York Times ran an article on February 24th, about the search for
linguistic identity in areas of the former Yugoslavia. The article was
called ''In the old dialect, a Balkan region regains its identity'' and
discussed ways in which various dialect groups are attempting to dissociate
themselves from standard Serbian.

Does anyone on this list know of serious academic studies of this issue?

H. Schiffman

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): Serbo-croatian (SRC)

Message 2: Origin of Agreement Systems

Date: 03-Mar-2005
From: Greville Corbett <>
Subject: Origin of Agreement Systems

In an influential paper, Givón (1976) argued that verb agreement arises
from anaphoric pronouns (schematically, the man, he arrived > the man
he-arrived). The idea was not completely new, but it was Givón who
presented a developed and convincing case. We might have expected this
paper to stimulate the publication of a lot of supporting evidence, but my
impression is that this has not happened. There are examples, such as
Harris (2002), who argues for a pronominal origin for person markers in
Udi, but such studies are not plentiful.

Givón suggested that head-modifier agreement develops from verb agreement,
but gives less space to this. A different source was suggested by Greenberg
(1978), offering evidence from Daly languages that general classifiers are
a possible source. This is made more plausible by Reid's (1997) account of
Ngan’gityemmeri (Daly family).

So my QUESTION: are there further detailed accounts of the rise of
agreement? That is, are there descriptions of a language without agreement
at an earlier stage and the subsequent development of agreement? I am NOT
asking about extensions of agreement systems (e.g. a system with a number
feature with values singular and plural which then develops dual markers).
I am asking about languages lacking agreement at one stage which develop it
at a later stage.

I will of course post a summary if I am overwhelmed by examples.


Givón, Talmy. 1976. Topic, pronoun and grammatical agreement. In: Charles
N. Li (ed.) Subject and Topic, 149-88. New York: Academic Press.

Greenberg, Joseph H. 1978. How does a language acquire gender markers? In:
Joseph H. Greenberg, Charles A. Ferguson & Edith A. Moravcsik (eds)
Universals of Human Language: III: Word Structure, 47-82. Stanford:
Stanford University Press.

Harris, Alice C. 2002. Endoclitics and the Origins of Udi Morphosyntax.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reid, Nicholas. 1997. Class and classifier in Ngan’gityemmeri. In: Mark
Harvey & Nicholas Reid (eds) Nominal Classification in Aboriginal Australia
(Studies in language companion series 37), 165-228. Amsterdam: John

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

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