LINGUIST List 2.287

Thursday, 13 June 1991

Disc: Indirect Object agreement

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  1. John E. Koontz, Agreement with IO in preference to DO
  2. Karen Christie, Re: Queries
  3. , Re: Queries

Message 1: Agreement with IO in preference to DO

Date: Tuesday, 11 June
From: John E. Koontz <>
Subject: Agreement with IO in preference to DO
Jan Olsen inquires:

> I'm wondering if there are any spoken languages in which the verb has to
> gree with its indirect object, but must not agree with the direct object.
> What I have in mind is something like the situation we find in Georgian
> ... V has to agree with SU, DO and IO, but there are only two slots for
> agreement suffixes.

This is the situation in the Mississippi Valley Siouan languages, e.g.,
Dakotan, Omaha-Ponca, or Winnebago. If a transitive clause includes IO,
then verb object person concord is with IO, not DO. In addition, there is a
specific pattern of derivation that marks verbs as S + IO verbs rather than
S + DO verbs. There is no marking on the object. Most such verbs also have
subject person concord, too, though there are some exceptions.

There are also some oblique object constructions in which the OO seems not
to preempt concord, e.g., in Omaha-Ponca, the applicative.

I am not sure about the concord situation in Mandan and Crow-Hidatsa, where
the dative relation is indicated with a serial verb construction based on
`to give'.

> For 3rd person DOs, this does not create a problem since the pertinent
> suffix is phonologically empty. If a clause contains a SU and an IO, 1st
> and 2nd person DOs must be replaced by a possessive pronoun + tavi
> (_head_), a construction which is 3rd person from a formal point of view
> and therefore helps to solve the agreement problem.

In Siouan languages one simply can't have a non 3rd DO when there is a DO,
as far as I know the data. Rephrasings with two predicates, especially a
causative construction, are offered.

> And now something completely different: Many writing systems use double
> letters to represent e.g. vowel length. Are there any writing systems
> which use triple letters?

Well, Atsina (ALGONQUIAN) has short, long, and overlong vowels, which Allan
Taylor writes with one, two, and three vowel sequences. I seem to recall
that the overlong sequences result from loss of intervocalic consonants, and
have a restricted range of the potential pitch contours.
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Message 2: Re: Queries

Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1991 12:09 EST
From: Karen Christie <>
Subject: Re: Queries
An indirect response to Jan Olsen's query:
I believe the situation for ASL is that IF the NPs are set in space that
certain verbs (such as GIVE) MUST agree with the Object..true... It CAN show
agreement with the subject but that is not required....It seems that certain
other types of verbs such as SEE,TELL, INFORM, TATTLE only have object
agreement (cannot have subject agreement incorporated into the verb).

To echo Jan Olsen's query, I wonder if any highly inflectional languages have
this type of object agreement (serbo-crotian...navajo..hebrew??)
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Message 3: Re: Queries

Date: Tue, 11 Jun 91 10:07 PDT
From: <>
Subject: Re: Queries
RE: Jan OlseRE: Jan Olsen's questions on agreement

There are a number of American Indian languages I know of which you may be
interesting (and I think someone has already noted the parallel with ASL,
though I forget where). In the Yuman languages, for instance, there is no for--
mal distinction between "direct" and "indirect" objects, but in verbs which
may take two objects it is always the semantic dative (recipient, benefactive,
whatever) which agrees on the verb. Some of these languages have an inde-
pendent plural object prefix which may cooccur with person agreement for
the indirect object to mark a plural direct object, but speakers generally
are simply unwilling to translate sentences with non-third-person direct
objects for such verbs (they resort to paraphrase, which generally works
Muskogean languages have a formal distinction between "direct" and "indirect"
objects for many verbs, expressing these with agreement prefixes from what
are often called the II and III agreement series. In some languages these
may cooccur, but in Chickasaw, the language I know best, a verb may not
have an overt prefix from both of these series. The third persons are zero,
so it's fine to say 'I sent you' or 'I sent him to you', but you can't say
'He sent me to you'. Again, speakers resort to paraphrase; again, if you
want to express both an agreeing indirect object and an agreeing direct
object, the indirect object wins.

Pam Munro

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