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Coordinate Subjects, Expletives, and the EPP in Early Irish

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This paper examines subject-verb agreement in Early-Irish sentences with coordinate subjects. We claim that Early Irish (Old and Middle Irish) is a 'variable agreement' language, which exhibits both singular and plural agreement with coordinate subjects. The type of agreement depends on adjacency between subject and verb and the valency of the verb. In particular, unaccusative and passive verbs exhibit both singular and plural agreement more frequently than transitive verbs. We argue that this is due to the availability of a default third person singular null locative expletive item, which controls singular agreement. Moreover, unaccusative and passive verbs also allow locative inversion with other PPs, leading to the same singular agreement. Furthermore, we suggest that, in contrast to Modern Irish, which lacks such an expletive, Early Irish could license its presence in intransitive/passive sentences because that stage of the language exhibited EPP-effects.
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Keywords: EPP; LOCATIVE-INVERSION; NULL EXPLETIVE; SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT; VARIABLE AGREEMENT

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Celtic Linguistics publishes articles and reviews on all aspects of the linguistics of the Celtic languages, modern, medieval and ancient, with particular emphasis on synchronic studies, while not excluding diachronic and comparative-historical work. This journal is of great interest to students of languages and Celtic studies, as well as members of the general public interested in the linguistic progression within Celtic languages and linguistic history. The editor is Lecturer in the Welsh Department at Aberystwyth University, and is supported by an editorial board including representatives from Oxford and Cambridge universities, and from universities across Europe and North America. Papers are invited in English, French or German on all fields/‘levels’ of analysis; phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics; formal or functional, cross-language typological or language-internal, dialectological or sociolinguistic, any theoretical paradigm.

    Mae’r Journal of Celtic Linguistics yn cynnwys erthyglau ac adolygiadau ar bob agwedd ar ieithoedd Celtaidd - modern, canoloesol a hynafol - gyda phwyslais arbennig ar astudiaethau syncronig, a heb eithrio gwaith diacronig a hanesyddol-gymharol. Y mae’r cyfnodolyn hwn yn ddefnyddiol i fyfyrwyr sydd yn astudio ieithoedd ac astudiaethau Celtaidd, yn ogystal â darllenwyr sy’n ymddiddori yn hanes datblygiadau’r ieithoedd Celtaidd. Mae’r golygydd yn Ddarlithydd yn Adran y Gymraeg, Prifysgol Aberystwyth, ac yn cydweithio â’r bwrdd golygyddol sydd â chynrychiolaeth o brifysgolion Rhydychen, Caergrawnt, ac o brifysgolion ledled Ewrop a Gogledd America.

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