Focus and multiple agreement in Maithili
Samir Alam, Elango Kumaran
November 2021

Maithili is an Eastern Indo-Aryan language spoken by around 34 million people, primarily in India and Nepal (Yadava et al. 2019:41). Its agreement system, which includes portmanteau morphemes sensitive to the subject plus a non-subject secondary controller, is known for exhibiting some crosslinguistically rare properties. Notably, argument-internal possessors can control agreement, in seeming violation of standardly-assumed locality restrictions on agreement (Stump and Yadav 1988). In addition, agreement involves an intricate system of dedicated honorific features –- as opposed to non-honorific features recruited into an honorific system, which are the typical means of honorification crosslinguistically (see e.g. Wang 2020).

In this paper, we present an Agree-based analysis of the agreement system of one particular variety of Maithili, spoken in Siraha District of Province 2, Nepal (relying on data from Yadava et al. 2019). Our main claims are the following:

a. Maithili agreement exhibits a person/honorificity hierarchy effect which challenges standard cyclic Agree models (e.g. Béjar 2003, Deal 2015), and motivates a novel implementation of dynamic interaction (Deal 2021).

b. The language’s four-way respect scale is split into two-way honorific and dishonorific systems.

c. Agreement with argument-internal possessors and PP-internal nominals is facilitated by focus-driven movement to the phase edge, analogous to the standard Agree-based analysis of cross-CP agreement (e.g. Polinsky and Potsdam 2001).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006313
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Proceedings of CLS 57, to appear
keywords: agreement, multiargument agreement, long distance agreement, honorification, maithili, prominent internal possessors, focus, dynamic interaction, cyclic agree, morphology, syntax
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