Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 379–426 | Cite as

On the parametric variation of case and agreement

Original Paper


The paper argues that Case and Agreement are subject to parametric variation and explores the consequences of this claim with a particular attention to word order. Departing from much generative work, it is argued that languages can lack abstract Case and/or abstract Agreement. By modifying several Minimalist assumptions, it is demonstrated that languages without Case, but with Agreement will require overt NPs to appear in non-argumental, dislocated positions. These are exemplified by Mohawk and Kinande. In contrast, languages with Case features may allow, but not require NP dislocation. These are exemplified by all of the Indo-European languages and Japanese. Finally, languages that lack both Case and Agreement are predicted to have a rigid word order. Chinese is used as an example of such a language. In addition, the paper addresses a number of phenomena that pose a problem for the view that Case and Agreement are universal and are better understood if these properties are taken to vary parametrically. The phenomena include locative inversion and inverse voice constructions in Bantu languages, the distribution of subject anaphors in Japanese, and the non co-occurrence of overt accusative case with overt object agreement.


Case Agreement Morphology Word order 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NeuralIQ, Inc.Santa MonicaUSA

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