On the Relationship of Object Agreement and Accusative Case: Evidence from Amharic

Mark C. Baker
2012 Linguistic Inquiry  
She(NOM) loves(3sS) them(ACC).' (Taraldsen 1995, Schütze 1997 b. Henni leiddust Þeir. she.DAT be.bored.with-3pS they.NOM 'She was bored with them.' 2 So there is some firm empirical grounding for relating agreement on T and nominative case in a tight theoretical fashion. Baker 2008: ch. 5 argues that this relationship is parametrized, not universal, but even so it holds for more than 50% of languages he studied (p. 221). The question to be reconsidered here is how this extends to object
more » ... s to object agreement and accusative case marking. Chomsky's own view, widely accepted in the literature, is that it carries over directly. It is assumed that there is some other functional head F-typically identified as active/transitive v-that is distinct from T but is subject to the same principles. This other head F Agrees with the NP closest to it, the object, and the result is the phi-features of the object appearing on F and accusative case appearing on the NP. But there is a superficial difference: object agreement is not realized in overt morphology in English and most other IE languages. Thus one cannot point to clear facts like (1) and (2) to ground this extension-or to challenge it. The parallel treatment is conceptually attractive, but its empirical support is comparatively slight. There are, however, languages outside of IE that do have both overt object agreement and accusative case morphology. It is interesting, then, to see if one does observe in these the close relationship between object agreement and accusative case that much current theory would expect-if one finds analogs of (1) and (2) for objects and object agreement. With this in mind, I consider here Amharic, a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia. I show that, in fact, object agreement and accusative case do not correspond very closely in this language, but rather diverge in systematic ways (section 2). I then show that object agreement does have the core properties one would expect of a manifestation of Agree (section 3)-arguing against the plausable view that the morphemes in question are pronominal clitics rather than true agreement. This implies that one needs to identify a source for accusative case in Amharic other than Agree.
doi:10.1162/ling_a_00085 fatcat:gokj7odafvc4pbdoye3qjoix2q