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  • 7/31/2019 Boeckx 2000 Quirky Agr


    Quirky Agreement*

    Cedric Boeckx

    Abstract. Verb agreement with a nominative element is severely constrained inIcelandic when a Quirky ``subject'' is present: only partial (number, not person)agreement obtains. This paper tries to account for this restriction in terms ofBonet's 1994 Person-Case-Constraint, which blocks `object' person agreementwhen agreement with a dative element takes place. I put forward the idea thatagreement obtains with Quirky subjects, but fails to show up morphologicallyon the verb for non-syntactic reasons. The analysis is extended to otherlanguages, which allows me to address the issue of the nature of Quirky Case,and of inherent Case more generally.

    1. Introduction

    The phenomenon of Quirky Case in Icelandic has received a great deal of

    attention since Zaenen, Maling & Thrainsson's 1985 detailed study of it.

    Regardless of whether Case is assigned (GB theory) or checked (Minim-

    alist Program), Quirky Case sits square on conceptions of Case Theory in

    the Principles-and-Parameters framework. A quick perusal of the liter-

    ature reveals various stages in the investigation of Quirky Case. There hasfirst been the question of how Quirky Case (usually, dative) is assigned,

    and why Quirky Case-marked elements surface in subject position despite

    their having no nominative Case features usually associated with `sub-

    jecthood.'1 Next, there has been the fact that Quirky elements, which

    behave like subjects, do not induce agreement on the verb, an otherwise

    prototypical feature of subjects. More recently, the fact that elements

    bearing nominative Case behave like objects2 when a Quirky element is

    present, and yet trigger agreement on the verb has been discussed. Finally,

    the fact that this agreement is partial and optional, and even barred insome cases, has received some attention.

    Studia Linguistica 54(3) 2000, pp. 354380. # The Editorial Board of Studia Linguistica 2000.Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK, and350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

    * I am most indebted to Noam Chomsky for his comments, patience, and constantencouragement. Thanks are also due to Z eljko Boskovic, Howard Lasnik, Juan Uriagereka,Halldo r A rmann Sigursson, Christer Platzack, Anders Holmberg, Adolfo Ausn, ananonymous Studia Linguistica reviewer, and the audience of the 14th Comparative GermanicSyntax Conference (Lund, January 1999) for important comments and suggestions. Apreliminary report of this research appears in Boeckx 1998b.

    1 See Harley (1995b: chap. 1) for a useful and critical discussion of phenomena associated

    with subjecthood.2 The term `object behavior' draws on the results of such tests as those applied by Harley1995a,b to determine whether the nominative element hestar in (i) is Quirky or not, and ifnot, where it checks its features.

    i. Konungi hafa veri gefnir hestarkingdat have been given horsesnom`A king has been given horses'

  • 7/31/2019 Boeckx 2000 Quirky Agr


    I will not dwell upon why the phenomena associated with Quirky Case

    are important for the Principles-and-Parameters approach to language.

    Nor will I attempt to review the vast amount of analyses put forward to

    deal with the facts just mentioned. Rather, I will focus on one particular

    quirk: the agreement pattern, especially that found with raising predicates

    (seem-constructions) in Icelandic.

    The present paper is organized as follows: section 2 provides the

    necessary background for the analysis to come; section 3 develops a

    new view on how agreement functions in Icelandic; section 4 applies the

    proposal to raising predicates; section 5 extends it to other languages, and

    tries to uncover the parameter underlying the availability of Quirky Case,

    and in so doing gain some insight into the nature of inherent Case.

    Section 6 is a summary.

    2. Some Quirky facts

    This section provides some necessary background on Icelandic Quirky

    subjects. I give a simple overview of the constructions in question,

    highlighting the properties of Quirky elements that make them ``subjects.''

    Quirky subjects behave like ordinary nominative subjects (and not like

    `topicalized' objects) with respect to numerous syntactic phenomena,

    including such familiar subjecthood-tests as subject-oriented reflexiviza-tion, subject-verb inversion, ECM, raising, subject control, and con-

    junction reduction (see Zaenen, Maling & Thrainsson 1985, henceforth

    ZMT, for fuller discussion).3 Compare the behavior of `structural' and

    `Quirky' subjects in (1) and (2), respectively. (Examples from Sigursson


    (1) a. Hu ni sa myndina snai Reflexivization

    shenom saw picture selfH s4

    `She saw her own picture'

    Quirky Agreement 355

    # The Editorial Board of Studia Linguistica 2000.

    The conclusion Harley arrives at is that nominative Case is checked in AGRo, theprototypical position of `objects'. As Harley shows (see also Jo nsson 1996), there aregood reasons to believe the nominative element is an object of some sort: unlike `subjects', itdoes not check the EPP (the Quirky element does), it fails to pass the subjecthood-testsdevised by Zaenen, Maling & Thrainsson 1985 (see our section 2), it undergoes Object Shift,behaves like objects with respect to Negative Polarity items, ECM-constructions, passiviza-tion, wh-extraction, and control (see Harley 1995a,b for data and discussion).

    3 It is generally agreed that, though poorly understood, those phenomena are to be

    associated with subjects. Some of them, like ECM, seem robust (see Boskovic

    1997 andMartin 1996, among many others, for relevant discussion).

    4 Compare:

    i. Henni fannst kennarinn sinn/*hennar leiinlegurHerdat found teachernom her[+refl]/[refl] boring`She found her teacher boring'

    Yip, Maling & Jackendoff (1987:224,(5a))

  • 7/31/2019 Boeckx 2000 Quirky Agr


    b. Hefur hu n se myndina? ``Inversion''

    Has shenom seen picture

    `Has she seen the picture?'

    c. E g tel [hana hafa se myndina] ECM

    I believe heracc have seen picture

    `A believe her to have seen the picture'

    d. Hu ni virist [ti hafa se myndina] Raising

    Shenom seems have seen picture

    `She seems to have seen the picture'

    e. Hu n vonast til [a PRO sja myndina] Control

    She hopes for to PROnom see picture5

    `She hopes to see the picture'

    f. Hu n horfi og (hu n) sa myndina Conj. reduc.

    Shenom looked and (shenom) saw picture

    `She looked and saw the picture'

    (2) a. Hennii leiist bo kin sniherdat bores book self's

    `She finds her own book boring'

    b. Hefur henni leist bo kin?

    Has herdat bored book

    `Has she found the book boring'

    c. E g tel [henni hafa leist bo kin]

    I believe herdat have bored book

    `I believe she found the book boring'

    d. Hennii virist [ti hafa leist bo kin]

    Herdat seems have bored book

    `She seems to have found the book boring'

    e. Hu n vonast til [a PRO leiast ekki bo kin]

    She hopes for to PROdat bore not book

    `She hopes not to find the book boring'

    f. Hu n var syfju og (henni) leiddist bo kin

    She was sleepy and (herdat) found the book boring

    `She was sleepy and found the book boring'

    With this much background, we can turn to subject-verb-agreement

    patterns in `Quirky' constructions.

    Agreement in Icelandic finite clauses involving nominative subjects

    proceeds as in many other languages: agreement obtains between the verb

    and the subject, usually in the highest spec (ignoring topicalization, post-

    copular subjects, etc.).

    356 Cedric Boeckx

    # The Editorial Board of Studia Linguistica 2000.

    5 See Sigursson 1991 for convincing arguments that PRO bears Case in Icelandic (here,nominative Case).

  • 7/31/2019 Boeckx 2000 Quirky Agr


    (3) Vi kusum stelpuna

    WenomX1Xpl elected1Xpl girlacc`We elected the girl'

    (4) r virast tHH hafa veri tH kosnar t

    TheynomX3Xpl seem3Xpl have been electednomX3Xpl`They seem to have been elected'

    Sigursson (1992:2, (1), (4))

    However, once we turn to Quirky subjects, facts get murky. If there is

    only one argument the Quirky Case-marked subject agreement does

    not obtain between the verb and the subject. The verb takes what has

    come to be called ``default agreement'' (a form homophonous with the

    third person singular neuter).

    (5) Stelpunum var hjalpa

    The girlsdatXplXfem was3Xsg helpedneuterXsgThe girls were helped'

    (6) eim virist tHH hafa veri tH hjalpa t

    ThemdataX3Xpl seems3Xsg have been helpednXsg`They seem to have been helped'

    Sigursson (1992:3, (5b), (8))

    If there is another argument an ``object'', agreement depends on the

    Case of the latter; if the Case of that argument is dative, genitive or

    accusative, no agreement obtains ((7) (9)).6 If the Case is nominative, the

    verb agrees with the nominative NP, not with the Quirky subject (10).

    (7) Mig irar ess

    Meacc repentsdefault thisgen`I repent this' Yip et al. (1987:230, (9e))

    (8) Henni var skila peningunum

    Herdat wasdefault returned moneydat`She was given the money back'

    (9) Mig vantar peninga

    Meacc lacksdefault moneyacc`They seem to have been helped'

    ZMT (1985:454, (29a); 459, (42b))

    (10) Henni voru gefnar bkurnar

    Herdat were3Xpl given booksnomXpl

    `She was given the books' (Sigursson (1992:5, (5f))

    Quirky Agreement 357

    # The Editorial