LOT Summer School 2018

Person, number and the architecture of grammar

Omer Preminger



Title of the course:

Person, Number, and the Architecture of Grammar



Course description:

This course will focus on the syntax of Person and Number, and will also be of immediate relevance to those interested in the syntax-morphology and syntax-semantics mappings.

In some of the cases we examine, the mapping between syntax and other modules will turn out to be more transparent than is usually assumed. In particular, we will see evidence that there is generally no such thing as phonologically null agreement (i.e., valuation of Person/Number features in syntax which then receives no morphological exponence). This result contradicts frequent claims in the minimalist canon (cf. Chomsky 2000, 2001, i.m.a.), while at the same time significantly tightening the mapping between syntax and morphology.

In other domains, however, we will see that the mapping is much less transparent than is usually assumed. In particular, we will see that the “marked” member of Person and Number oppositions need not be the same in morphology or in semantics as it is in syntax. This, in turn, suggests that it is time to abandon the (outdated) notion that there are grammatical primitives like “plural” or “singular” – or, for that matter, their counterparts in the domain of Person – that cross-cut different grammatical modules. This should be welcome news, as it brings Person and Number back in line with most other grammatical primitives, where no such cross-modularly consistent primitives exist, either. (Compare: “verb” vs. “open-class predicate of events” vs. “potential bearer of inflectional morphology.”)

Provisional Schedule:

Day 1 – Probing and valuation: the mechanics of feature interactions in syntax.

Day 2 – Failed agreement in grammatical utterances: evidence & theoretical consequences.

Day 3 – Asymmetries between Person and Number.

Day 4 – The nature of the Person Case Constraint (PCC), and its consequences for the architecture of grammar.

Day 5 – Cross-modular mismatches in the representation of Person & Number.

Provisional Reading-List:

Day 1:


Polinsky, Maria & Eric Potsdam. 2001. Long-distance agreement and topic in Tsez. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 19:583–646, DOI: 10.1023/A:1010757806504


Preminger, Omer. 2017. How can feature-sharing be asymmetric? Valuation as UNION over geometric feature structures. In A Pesky Set: papers for David Pesetsky, eds. Claire Halpert, Hadas Kotek & Coppe van Urk, 493–502. Cambridge, MA: MITWPL. URL: https://tinyurl.com/fsunion

Frampton, John & Sam Gutmann. 2000. Agreement is feature sharing. Ms., Boston, MA: Northeastern University. URL: http://mathserver.neu.edu/~ling/pdf/agrisfs.pdf

Pesetsky, David & Esther Torrego. 2001. T-to-C movement: causes and consequences. In Ken Hale: a life in language, ed. Michael Kenstowicz, 355–426. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. URL: http://lingphil.mit.edu/papers/pesetsk/Torrego-Pes...

Day 2:


Preminger, Omer. 2014. Agreement and its failures. Linguistic Inquiry Monographs 68, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, chapters 2, 5 & 8 (pp. 5–13, 85–102 & 129–175; I will make these available in PDF for those who need it).


Deal, Amy Rose. 2015. Interaction and satisfaction in φ-agreement. In Proceedings of the 45th meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 45), eds. Thuy Bui & Deniz Özyıldız, vol. 1, Amherst, MA: GLSA, 179–192. URL: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/002610

Day 3:


Baker, Mark C. 2011. When agreement is for number and gender but not person. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 29:875–915, DOI: 10.1007/s11049-011-9147-z

Preminger, Omer. 2011. Asymmetries between person and number in syntax: a commentary on Baker’s SCOPA. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 29:917–937, DOI: 10.1007/s11049-011-9155-z


Nevins, Andrew Ira. 2011. Multiple Agree with clitics: person complementarity vs. omnivorous number. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 29:939–971, DOI: 10.1007/s11049-011-9150-4

Day 4:


Preminger, Omer. to appear. What the PCC tells us about ‘abstract’ agreement, head movement, and locality. Glossa, URL: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/003221


Nevins, Andrew Ira. 2007. The representation of third person and its consequences for Person-Case effects. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 25:273–313, DOI: 10.1007/s11049-006-9017-2

Rezac, Milan. 2008. The syntax of eccentric agreement: the Person Case Constraint and absolutive displacement in Basque. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 26:61–106, DOI: 10.1007/s11049-008-9032-6

Day 5:


Preminger, Omer. 2014. Agreement and its failures. Linguistic Inquiry Monographs 68, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, chapters 4, sec. 4.2.1–4.2.2 (pp. 40–47; I will make this available in PDF for those who need it).


Sauerland, Uli. 2003. A new semantics for number. In Proceedings of the 13th Semantics and Linguistics Theory conference (SALT 13), eds. Robert B. Young & Yuping Zhou, Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications, 258–275, DOI: 10.3765/salt.v13i0.2898

Harley, Heidi. 2014. Reply to commentaries, ‘On the identity of roots’. Theoretical Linguistics 40:447–474, DOI: 10.1515/tl-2014-0024