Agreement relations are interpreted asymmetrically, in that phi-features restrict the interpretation of the controller, but not the target. In this paper we explore whether this semantic asymmetry corresponds to a syntactic asymmetry. We will argue that it does not: phi-features are generated independently on target and controller. The evidence comes from cases of what we term ‘subset control’, in which the controller has fewer features than the target. We will argue that there are genuine cases of subset control that cannot be explained away, neither by assuming the controller contains non-realised features, nor by assuming that the underspecified category is not the actual controller, the latter being a fully specified null element. Our main evidence comes from Spanish ‘unagreement’.
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We thank Claudia Borgonovo, Antonio Fábregas, Luisa Martí, Àngels Molina and Martha Robinson for help with the Spanish data in Sect. 4. Examples of quantificational unagreement, unless indicated otherwise, are based on Molina’s MA Thesis (UCL, 2010). Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Words don’t come easy workshop at the University of Verona (2008), at NESS at the University of York (2010) and at the City University of Hong Kong (2011). We thank the respective audiences for useful questions and comments. We would also like to thank Valentina Bianchi, Antonio Fábregas, David Lobina, Andrew Nevins, Hans van de Koot, and Edwin Williams for discussion, as well as two anonymous reviewers and the editor of this special issue, Jochen Trommer.
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Ackema, P., Neeleman, A. Subset controllers in agreement relations. Morphology 23, 291–323 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11525-013-9218-4