, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 247–281 | Cite as

Polite plurals and adjective agreement

  • Stephen WechslerEmail author
  • Hyun-Jong Hahm
Original Paper


When an agreement controller such as a subject NP is a hybrid of contrasting syntactic and semantic features, the choice of syntactic versus semantic agreement depends on both the type of agreement target and the type of agreement controller. Two types of controller are contrasted: hybrid pronouns such as polite uses of the second person plural to refer to one addressee; and hybrid common nouns such as plurale tante. In some languages the pronoun type triggers singular on a predicate adjective and plural on the verb, while the common noun type triggers plural on both adjectives and verbs. The former pattern is explained in terms of underspecification of the pronoun: it is unspecified for the Concord number feature, to which adjectives are sensitive; but it carries a number feature on its referential Index, to which finite verbs are sensitive. An Agreement Marking Principle is proposed, according to which an agreement target checks the trigger for a syntactic phi feature, assigning that feature’s semantic interpretation to the trigger denotation if no syntactic feature is found.


Agreement Concord Pronoun Number T/V Trigger Controller Target 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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