Parameterizing agreement features in Arabic, Bantu languages, and varieties of English

Elly Van Gelderen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Subject-verb (SV) and verb-subject (VS) structures differ where agreement is concerned. The question to be answered is why languages display less verbal agreement in VS structures than in SV structures. Within a government-binding framework, the problem has been accounted for (e.g. by Koopman and Sportiche 1991) by arguing that there is a real Spec-Head agreement relationship in SV structures (with the subject in the specifier position and the verb in the head of a functional projection) but a government relationship in VS structures (with the moved verb governing the subject position). In this paper, I explain the different agreement patterns in Arabic, Kirundi/Kinyarwandi, and Belfast English through a modification of the minimalist framework (cf. Chomsky 1992). I argue that in VS structures, expletives are responsible for the agreement (and the "breakdown" of agreement). Expletives, which may for instance be specified for singular number, are inserted and check some of the phi features. The other features are checked after the NP moves at LF. "Dividing up" the agreement (or phi) features accounts for a number of "breakdowns" in agreement in the other two languages as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-767
Number of pages15
Issue number344
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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