Please join us for our next colloquium.

Speaker: Mark Baker (Rutgers), presenting joint work with Ruth Kramer  (Georgetown University)

Date & Time: Friday, November 6th at 3:30 pm
Place: ARTS Bldg. room 260
Title: Doubling Clitics are Pronouns: Agree, Move, Reduce, and Interpret


Linguistic theory has had a remarkably difficult time arriving at any consensus about how to distinguish between clitic doubling and agreement in a way that is robust and applicable across languages. Familiar diagnostics disagree in some languages, and this uncertainly detracts seriously from our ability to discern theoretically significant typological patterns that concern agreement (for example). In this talk, we revisit this topic, beginning with a close look at “object markers” (OMs) in Amharic, like əw in (1)

(1) Ləmma (wɨʃʃa-w-ɨn) j-aj-(əw)-al.

Lemma dog-DEF-ACC 3mS-see-3mO-AUX(3mS)

‘Lemma sees it/the dog.’ (OK with əw or with ‘the dog’ or both)

These OMs turn out to be impossible with an interesting range of direct objects, including indefinite objects, quantified objects, anaphoric reflexive objects, and objects that contain a bound variable. We claim that these restrictions are quite mysterious if OMs are analyzed as manifestations of object agreement—even if the Agree-based theory is supplemented with a new feature like [+specificity] or if agreement is fed by Object Shift as known from Dutch and German. In contrast, the constraints can be derived from known principles of syntax (or the syntax-semantics interface) like the Weak Crossover Condition and the Binding theory if one assumes that the OMs are pronouns and interpreted as such at LF.

This leads us not only to a clitic-doubling analysis, but to a particular kind of clitic doubling derivation that has its own theoretical interest. We argue that v Agrees with the object and attracts the object to SpecvP. Then a novel process of Reduce applies in the syntax, to transform the moved DP into a bare D head. This D-head with its phi-features then counts as the pronoun at LF. This view can be contrasted with the m-merger of Matushansky (2006) and subsequent work, which has similar aspirations but crucially applies at PF, where it cannot feed LF conditions, and conflates Reduce with the attachment of the clitic to the verb. By way of extension, we show that Amharic also has an unusual kind of prepositional clitic, which is problematic for an Agree-approach, but can follow from our Move-and-Reduce approach.

We close with some preliminary typological results, claiming that the diagnostic implied by our analysis also works for familiar cases of clitic doubling in IE languages (Spanish, Romanian, Greek, Bulgarian). Object markers in Burushaski and Sambaa, however, clearly pattern as simple agreement markers by this test. In contrast, influential recent diagnostics by Preminger (2009) and Nevins (2011) say that OMs in these two languages are clitics. We claim that our diagnostic is the more significant one, because it is firmly grounded in established syntactic principles, and because gets at the heart of the conceptual difference between agreement and clitics—namely whether there is value added by saying that the morpheme in question is pronominal or not.