Optional agreement as successful/failed AGREE: Evidence from Santiago Tz’utujil (Mayan)
Paulina Lyskawa, Rodrigo Ranero
May 2021

We investigate optional predicate agreement in Santiago Tz’utujil (Mayan). We show that all the features of the agreement controller must be exponed in some structural configurations, whereas a 3rd singular morpheme can be exponed in others. Several generalizations emerge: (i) inanimate arguments base generated as complements control agreement optionally; (ii) a subset of animate arguments base-generated as complements control agreement optionally; and (iii) all arguments base-generated as specifiers control full agreement obligatorily. These generalizations lead us to propose that two conditions must be met in order for AGREE to succeed, resulting in the exponence of all the features of the agreement controller. First, a goal must be visible (i.e., bear the feature that the probe is looking for). Second, a goal must be accessible (i.e., be in the right structural position to be targeted by the probe). If one or both of these conditions are not met, AGREE fails, but the derivation converges and 3rd singular agreement is exponed. In other words, while the syntactic operation AGREE is deterministic, surface optionality arises when the operation fails. A consequence of our proposal is that optional agreement serves as a diagnostic for underlying syntactic structure. In applying the diagnostic, we shed light on the proper analysis of understudied constructions in Santiago Tz’utujil and Mayan more broadly (e.g., nominalizations and Agent Focus clauses). We end by discussing microvariation in the phenomenon across Mayan and within Santiago Tz’utujil, highlighting methodological considerations that arise when we take an I-language approach to investigating a phenomenon of this nature.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005922
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Accepted (with revisions) at Linguistic Variation
keywords: agreement, optionality, agree, unaccusativity, microvariation, agent focus, nominalization, mayan, tz'utujil, morphology, syntax
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