External agreement

Workshop on 'External' Agreement with Unexpected Targets

Call for papers

We invite abstracts for a Workshop on 'External' Agreement with Unexpected Targets to be submitted for consideration for the 52nd Annual meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE), Leipzig, 21–24 August 2019.

The convenors are Marina Chumakina, Oliver Bond and Steven Kaye.

Since this workshop is intended to be part of the annual meeting of the SLE it needs to go through a preliminary round of evaluation. If the proposal is successful, the participants will be asked to submit a full abstract.

Provisional titles and abstracts (up to 300 words) should be sent by 16 November 2018 to Marina Chumakina at the following address: m.chumakina@surrey.ac.uk

Important dates:

  • Provision abstract deadline: 16 November 2018
  • Notification of inclusion in workshop: 20 November 2018
  • Notification of acceptance of workshop: 15 December 2018
  • Deadline submission full abstract if workshop proposal is successful: 15 January 2019

Across the world’s languages, agreement is generally limited to relations between a verb and its arguments (clausal agreement) or a noun and its dependents (nominal agreement), and it usually occurs between elements belonging to particular parts of speech within the boundaries of established syntactic constituents.

We focus on a radically different type of agreement, where the relation between the controller and the target is typologically and theoretically unexpected. Examples have been registered in abundance in one linguistic family, Nakh-Daghestanian, and have been sporadically reported for other languages of the world (Antrim 1991, Fábregas and Pérez-Jiménez 2008, Ledgeway 2011 among others). Consider example (1), from the Nakh-Daghestanian language Avar, where the postposition žaniw ‘inside’ has the neuter noun tusnaq’ ‘prison’ as its complement. Together, these elements form a postpositional phrase, tusnaqalda žaniw ‘in the prison’. However, agreement on the postposition, realized by the masculine singular suffix -w, is controlled by one of the verb’s arguments, the object Rasul:

(1)    tusnaq-al-da                     žani-w      t’amuna   niže-cːa               Rasul
        prison(N)-SG.OBL-SUP    in-M.SG    put.PST    1PL.EXCL-ERG    Rasul(M)[SG.ABS]
        ‘We put Rasul in prison.’

The agreement represented in (1) is striking: first of all, it is an unusual part of speech that shows agreement, namely a postposition. Secondly, the agreement happens with an unexpected controller: not the complement of the postposition, but the object of the predicate. The target and controller in (1) ultimately belong to the same clause but do not form a local domain either in terms of strict locality (sisterhood) or high locality (such as verb-argument relations), as defined in Alexiadou et al. (2013: 3-4).

Languages of the Andic group present an even more striking example: agreement in the nominal paradigm. The noun in the affective case (‘mother’) coding the experiencer argument of the verb haɢo ‘see’ has a morphological slot for agreement and agrees in gender and number with the absolutive argument of the clause, as (2) and (3) from Andi illustrate:

(2)    ilu-b-o                             q’inkom                  haɢo
        mother(II)-III.SG-AFF    bull(III)[SG.ABS]    see.AOR
        ‘Mother saw a bull.’

(3)   ilu-r-o                             c’ul                          haɢo
        mother(II)-V.SG-AFF    stick(V)[SG.ABS]    see.AOR
        ‘Mother saw a stick.’

These examples demonstrate that, first, agreement affects a much wider range of grammatical elements than previously thought and, second, agreement does not always correlate with syntactic structure; it can ‘sidestep’ syntactic relations, contrary to what has been generally assumed. To capture the latter property of this phenomenon, we call it ‘external agreement’. This is, however, just a shorthand for a more accurate description: ‘agreement of non-verbal targets outside their minimal syntactic phrase, yet within the clause’.

The aim of this workshop is to expand our understanding of how agreement works by investigating agreement phenomena such as arguments agreeing with other clause-level arguments, adpositions agreeing outside the adpositional phrase, and agreeing adverbs and discourse particles, across the world’s languages. Our overarching research question is: What does external agreement tell us about the structure of human language?

To shed light on this problem, we invite papers that consider any of the following questions:  

-    What types of controllers and targets are involved in external agreement?  
-    What are the structural constraints on non-local agreement?
-    What are the morphosyntactic properties of external agreement?
-    How does external agreement develop?

We invite general typological and theoretical contributions to these topics, as well as case studies from languages, families or linguistic areas that relate to the main questions of  the workshop.


Alexiadou, Artemis, Tibor Kiss and Gereon Müller (eds) (2013). Local Modelling of Non-Local Dependencies in Syntax. Series: Linguistische Arbeiten 547. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Antrim, Nancy Mae (1991). ‘Italian adverbial agreement’, in Michael L. Mazzola (ed.), Issues and Theory in Romance Linguistics: Selected Papers from the Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages XXIII, April 1–4, 1993. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 129-40.

Baker, Mark (2014). ‘On dependent ergative case (in Shipibo) and its derivation by phase’, Linguistic Inquiry 4/3: 341-79.

Bond, Oliver, Greville G. Corbett, Marina Chumakina and Dunstan Brown (eds) (2016). Archi: Complexities of agreement in cross-theoretical perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carstens, Vicki, and Michael Diercks (2013). ‘Agreeing how? Implications for theories of agreement and locality’, Linguistic Inquiry 44/2: 179-237.

Corver, Norbert (2007). ‘Dutch ’s-prolepsis as a copying phenomenon’, in Norbert Corver and Jairo Nunes (eds), Copy Theory of Movement. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 175-215.

Csirmaz, Aniko (2008). ‘The accusative case and aspect’, in Katalin É. Kiss (ed.), Event Structure and the Left Periphery: Studies on Hungarian. Dordrecht: Springer, 159-200.

Fábregas, Antonio, and Isabel Pérez-Jiménez (2008). ‘Gender agreement on adverbs in Spanish’, Journal of Portuguese Linguistics 7: 25-45.

Haug, Dag T.T. and Tatiana Nikitina (2016). ‘Feature sharing in agreement’, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 34: 865-910.

Ledgeway, Adam (2011). ‘Adverb agreement and split intransitivity: Evidence from southern Italy’, Archivio glottologico italiano 96: 31-66.

Souag, Lameen (2015). ‘How to make a comitative preposition agree it-with its external argument: Songhay and the typology of conjunction and agreement’, in Jürg Fleischer, Elisabeth Rieken and Paul Widmer (eds), Agreement from a diachronic perspective. Berlin: De Gruyter, 75-100.

Project members

Dr Marina Chumakina
Dr Oliver Bond
Dr Steven Kaye

Period of award:

June 2018 - May 2021


Arts and Humanities Research Council