Miloje Despic (Cornell University)
Title: Investigations on Mixed Agreement: Polite Plurals, Hybrid Nouns and Coordinate Structures
Abstract: I this talk I discuss complex agreement patterns with the polite plural pronoun vi and so-called ‘hybrid nouns’ in Serbian. I show how many curious agreement phenomena are to a great extent determined by the inability of an agreement target to simultaneously agree with an exclusively semantic and an exclusively formal φ-feature of an agreement controller. Consequently, in some cases (e.g., the polite plural pronoun vi) masculine emerges as the default gender value, as a result of an independently motivated mechanism. I also argue that an analysis based on these two factors allows for wider empirical coverage than the analysis developed in Wechsler and Hahm (2011) and Wechsler (2011) based on an Agreement Marking Principle, 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. Wechsler and Hahm (2011) develop a theory in favor of the so-called ‘different pronoun hypothesis’, according to which different agreement patterns result from a difference in the grammatical representation of the agreement controller (i.e., the polite plural pronoun). In light of some new facts, however, I argue that the ‘different adjective hypothesis’ in fact might be on the right track. Along the way, I also develop an analysis of agreement with coordinated phrases consisting of singular number conjuncts and offer simple solutions to some quite puzzling gender agreement facts that have not yet been addressed in the literature. On the basis of such facts I suggest that gender in Serbian should be represented in terms of binary features [±masculine] and [±feminine].