On the Number-Gender (In)dependence in Agreement with Coordinated Subjects
This paper examines the availability of single-conjunct agreement in number and gender in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian. Reported are the results of an experiment in which coordinated singulars are included, as well as disjunction and negative-concord conjunction, next to the typically examined conjoined plurals. The research shows that, contra the general assumptions in the literature (Marušič, Nevins, and Saksida 2007, Marušič, Nevins, and Badecker 2015, Bošković 2009) but in line with earlier research (Moskovljević 1983, Bojović 2003), single-conjunct agreement does occur with coordinated singulars, especially in gender, even if less frequently. This paper shows that (i) first-conjunct agreement in gender preverbally and even last-conjunct agreement postverbally are produced above error level, and that the availability of collective interpretations for the coordinated subject influences the acceptability of the different agreement patterns available, and (ii) number and gender agreement do not have to target the same constituent. The findings shed light on the relation between the features of number and gender with regard to the issues of their bundling and simultaneous agreement, where the experimental results suggest that, while number tends to agree in a pattern that fits either semantic agreement or agreement with the entire conjunction, gender prefers to target single members of coordination, the first or the last. We speculate that a degree of “attraction” obtains, whereby number may attract gender to agree with the entire conjunction or gender may attract number to agree with a single conjunct. The results are used to compare two analyses offered in the literature—Marušič, Nevins, and Saksida 2007/Marušič, Nevins, and Badecker 2015 and Bošković 2009—showing that our empirical findings are problematic for both, but give a certain advantage to Marušič and his co-authors.
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