Agreement is found in a high proportion of the world’s languages, and its prevalence tends to make us forget what a puzzling phenomenon it is. Basically, agreement is the expression of information in the ‘wrong place’. This can be seen even in English sentences as trivial as: the system works intermittently versus the systems work intermittently. Why would we signal the number of systems redundantly on the verb (works versus work) when this is quite clear from system/systems? The information is available in the ‘right place’ (on the noun system) and redundantly also in the ‘wrong place’ (on the verb works). However there are cases where it appears only in the wrong place, as in the sheep is grazing versus the sheep are grazing. Agreement in English is in some ways rather straightforward. In other languages the phenomenon is much more complex.
The database encodes information on agreement in fifteen genetically diverse languages. For each language, we define its agreement in terms of controllers, targets, domains, categories and conditions. The database contains pointers to examples illustrating the instances of agreement. In addition, there are language reports describing the languages, giving sources and enabling the user to see how decisions were made. The database holds extensive data on a small sample of languages and is intended for typological investigation rather than primarily for statistical use.
The 'Languages' panel of the search interface allows you to refine a query by either language or language family, by making a selection from the relevant list. A query can be run on this selection alone or combined with search criteria from the Features and/or Conditions panels.
When using this panel, you should select either a language or a language family, but not both. Selecting an option from both menus results in an 'AND search' and will therefore only return results if the correct language family is selected, which by definition makes an 'AND search' in this context redundant.
In the database, we define agreement in terms of agreement controllers, targets, categories, domains and conditions. The search interface provides the user with drop-down menus for each of those five elements of agreement. In addition, categories are associated with targets and with controllers so that we allow for a mismatch between the two.
A simply query would be to search for a particular agreement controller, e.g. noun. For this query the database will return all records where the controller is a noun.
Further details of the drop-down menus available are provided below.
In languages with ergative alignment, a distinction is made between subjects and antecedent which are S (subject of an intransitive clause) and A (subject of a transitive verb).
The abbreviations O and IO are used for object and indirect object respectively in the Antecedent-Anaphor domain.
Conditions suffixed with an _M stand for morphological conditions. They are a kind of cooccurrence restrictions in the sense that a particular morphosyntactic category is a prerequisite for another. For example, in Russian number is a prerequisite for gender agreement which only occurs in the singular.
Searches can be refined by choosing values from more than one field. For instance, it is possible to search for a particular controller-target combination, or to search for target-category combinations.