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The syntax of semantic agreement in English 1

  • PETER W. SMITH (a1)

This paper investigates the properties of plural agreement that is triggered by collective nouns in British English. Both singular and plural agreement are able to appear with these collective nouns, which are shown to be morphologically singular but semantically plural. Plural agreement, however, is systematically more restricted than singular agreement, appearing in a subset of the environments where singular agreement is allowed. Restrictions on plural come from the nature of agreement; semantic agreement features can only enter into agreement when the controller of agreement c-commands the target of agreement, whereas morphologically motivated agreement is not subject to the same structural restriction. This asymmetry between the two types of agreement is shown to arise from the proposal that Agree (Chomsky 2000, 2001) is distributed over the syntactic and post-syntactic components (Arregi & Nevins 2012).

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Corresponding author
Author’s address: Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt, Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1, 60629, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
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I would like to thank Bob Borsley for much helpful advice with this paper, as well as three anonymous reviewers for Journal of Linguistics. For discussions and comments on the material here, I would like to thank Scott AnderBois, Karlos Arregi, Jon Gajewski, Katharina Hartmann, Johannes Mursell, Andrew Nevins, Hazel Pearson as well as audiences at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, the University of Connecticut, ConSOLE XX (Universität Leipzig) and ECO5 (UMass Amherst). I would like to thank, in particular, Jonathan Bobaljik, Željko Bošković, Beata Moskal and Susanne Wurmbrand, all of whom provided extensive discussion and comments on various versions of this paper. All errors are naturally my own responsibility.

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