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Query Details

Query Subject:   Origin of Agreement Systems
Author:   Greville Corbett
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Historical Linguistics

Query:   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
LL Issue: 16.645
Date posted: 04-Mar-2005


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