Surrey Morphology Group
Agreement Web Site
ESRC grant R000238228
Agreement is a puzzling phenomenon, found widely in languages
of different types. Basically, agreement is the 'displaced' expression
of information. In the sentence: the system works intermittently,
information about the number of systems is expressed redundantly
on the verb (works versus work) which, were it not
so familiar, would surprise us. The verb is marking the number of
systems (not the number of working events). English agreement is
rather straightforward; elsewhere agreement is much more complex.
Twelve languages, taken from different families so as to maximise
diversity, are being investigated; data will be collected according
to a consistent format across the languages, starting from the four
main areas of variation (controllers, targets, domains and categories).
This will lead to an initial typology, to be followed by a more
detailed investigation of three languages, found at extreme points
of the typological space (Russian, Mayali, and Yup'ik). Based on
this complexity a general typology of agreement systems will be
developed. This is primarily a theoretical aim, but it has potential
long-term applications in that agreement has implications for the
design of parsers in natural language processing systems. The outputs
will be a typological database and an annotated bibliography.