Mixed agreement in Russian: Gender, declension, and morphological ineffability
Mariia Privizentseva
July 2021

In this paper, I argue that declension classes are not primitives (see Aronoff (1994), Alexiadou (2004), Kramer (2015), i.a.), they are decomposed into simpler features, and gender is one of these features (Harris 1991, Wiese 2004, Caha 2019). The argument is based on mixed gender agreement in Russian, when a grammatically masculine noun can trigger feminine agreement if its referent is female (Mučnik 1971, Pesetsky 2013). Mixed agreement is grammatical only in those forms where a regular nominal exponent is syncretic to an exponent of a declension class that includes feminine nouns. In other forms, conflicting masculine and feminine gender features lead to ineffabiliaty in morphology (cf. Schütze (2003), Asarina (2011), Coon & Keine (2020)). Ineffability arises because the Subset Principle (Halle 1997) that holds between features of a vocabulary item and a terminal at the point of Vocabulary Insertion is violated later in the derivation. This is in turn possible if Vocabulary Insertion that applies cyclically bottom-up (Bobaljik 2000) is interleaved with Lowering that alters structure below the triggering node (Embick & Noyer 2001). Finally, I show that Russian also has a number of cases where conflicting gender features in a noun phrase do not result in a realization failure (Iomdin 1980). The difference between these patterns is derived in a principled way and follows from the positions where conflicting features are introduced.
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Reference: lingbuzz/006086
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keywords: declension class, gender, mixed agreement, morphological ineffability, feature conflicts, syncretism, russian, morphology
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