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Lecture | Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series

Towards a Unified Theory for Noun Class Agreement in Grassfields Bantu

Thursday 8 December 2022
Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

DP-internal agreement in Grassfields Bantu languages exhibits cross-linguistically rare patterns. In canonical order, where the agreeing modifiers (possessive and demonstrative pronouns, for example) generally follow the noun, we find regular agreement in noun class. In the reverse order, we get what, on the surface, looks like (1) regular agreement (Yemba and Medumba), (2) reduced/impoverished agreement (Ngemba) (3) zero agreement (Shupamem?) or (4) more agreement than expected (Aghem and Nweh). In this talk, I argue that Feature Gluttony (Coon & Keine 2021) may provide the correct setting for proposing a unified account of the observed patterns. I show, specifically for Ngemba, that noun class probes in surface N-POSS/DEM order (canonical order) agree with and copy exactly the features they need for vocabulary insertion in the post-syntax. In POSS/DEM-N order, they agree with and copy more gender features than they need for vocabulary insertion. This, I claim, creates a conflict in the morphology, as there is no vocabulary item that can spell out all the features on the terminal node made available to the morphology by syntax (Morphological Ineffability; Coon & Keine 2021). I adopt a repair mechanism that necessarily assumes Impoverishment before vocabulary insertion for Ngemba. Moreover, I provide empirical evidence from Nweh that Feature Gluttony might be the correct way to look at intricate patterns of noun class agreement in Grassfields Bantu in general. languages only differ in the type of repairs they apply to Feature Gluttony. While Ngemba, for example, does Impoverishment, Nweh does Fission which, in turn, presupposes multiple exponence.

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