In this book, Omer Preminger investigates how the obligatory nature of predicate-argument agreement is enforced by the grammar. Preminger argues that an empirically adequate theory of predicate-argument agreement requires recourse to an operation, whose obligatoriness is a grammatical primitive not reducible to representational properties, but whose successful culmination is not enforced by the grammar.
Preminger’s argument counters contemporary approaches that find the obligatoriness of predicate-argument agreement enforced through representational means. The most prominent of these is Chomsky’s “interpretability”-based proposal, in which the obligatoriness of predicate-argument agreement is enforced through derivational time bombs. Preminger presents an empirical argument against contemporary approaches that seek to derive the obligatory nature of predicate-argument agreement exclusively from derivational time bombs. He offers instead an alternative account based on the notion of obligatory operations better suited to the facts. The crucial data involves utterances that inescapably involve attempted-but-failed agreement and are nonetheless fully grammatical. Preminger combines a detailed empirical investigation of agreement phenomena in the Kichean (Mayan) languages, Zulu (Bantu), Basque, Icelandic, and French with an extensive and rigorous theoretical exploration of the far-reaching consequences of these data. The result is a novel proposal that has profound implications for the formalism that the theory of grammar uses to derive obligatory processes and properties.
About the Author
Omer Preminger is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Maryland.
“Preminger does a masterful job of showing how a small-looking and semi-familiar fact about agreement is rich in theoretical consequences which the rest of us have not taken seriously enough. He builds his case piece by piece, until at the very end one realizes what a boldly different vision of syntax is implied—and how little room there is to disagree with his conclusions.”
—Mark C. Baker, Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University; author of The Atoms of Language
“This monograph is a major contribution to the study of agreement in natural languages. The author proposes a shift from a system based on conditions on representations to a ‘derivation-failure’-based analysis of agreement operations. In totality, Preminger’s arguments make a strong case in favor of a derivational analysis of agreement, and whether we agree with the specific alternative he proposes or not, the arguments he presents will force us to rethink many current theoretical assumptions and to reconsider the mechanisms involved in agreement processes altogether.”
—Javier Ormazabal, Department of Linguistics and Basque Studies, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)