Inverse marking and Multiple Agree in Algonquin

Complementarity and variability
  • Will Oxford


This paper shows that inverse marking and portmanteau agreement are in complementary distribution in Algonquin: inverse marking is possible only in contexts where portmanteau agreement is not. This correlation holds despite intralanguage variation in both phenomena. The paper proposes that the two phenomena pattern together because both are determined by the outcome of the Agree operation on Infl. When Infl enters a Multiple Agree relation with both arguments, the realization of portmanteau agreement morphology is possible. When Infl agrees only with the object, it duplicates the result of an earlier object agreement operation on Voice. The presence of identical features on Infl and Voice triggers an impoverishment operation that deletes the features of Voice, resulting in its spellout as an underspecified elsewhere form—which is the exponent that we know descriptively as the inverse marker. This analysis explains why inverse marking and portmanteau agreement never co-occur in Algonquin: the two phenomena are determined by alternative outcomes of the Agree operation on Infl. The analysis also enables a simple account of the intralanguage variation in the patterning of the two phenomena, which is shown to follow from variation in the specification of the probe on Infl.


Agreement Inverse marking Equidistance Portmanteaux Algonquin 



The material in this paper has benefited from the helpful comments of Jonathan Bobaljik, Phil Branigan, Brandon Fry, Michael Hamilton, Bethany Lochbihler, and four anonymous reviewers, as well as audiences at WCCFL 32 (USC), WSCLA 19 (Memorial), the 47th Algonquian Conference (Manitoba), WCCFL 34 (Utah), NELS 47 (UMass Amherst), and the University of Ottawa. The research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Insight Development Grant 430-2016-00680).


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  1. 1.545 Fletcher Argue BuildingUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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