The Object Agreement Constraint

  • Javier Ormazabal
  • Juan Romero
Original Paper


This paper deals with the so-called Person Case Constraint (Bonet, E. 1991), a universal constraint blocking accusative clitics and object agreement morphemes other than third person when a dative is inserted in the same clitic/agreement cluster. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we argue that the scope of the PCC is considerably broader than assumed in previous work, and that neither its formulation in terms of person (1st/2nd vs. 3rd)-case (accusative vs. dative) restrictions nor its morphological nature are part of the right descriptive generalization. We present evidence (i) that the PCC is triggered by the presence of an animacy feature in the object’s agreement set; (ii) that it is not case dependent, also showing up in languages that lack dative case; and (iii) that it is not morphologically bound. Second, we argue that the PCC, even if it is modified accordingly, still puts together two different properties of the agreement system that should be set apart: (i) a cross-linguistic sensitivity of object agreement to animacy and (ii) a similarly widespread restriction on multiple object agreement observed crosslinguistically. These properties lead us to propose a new generalization, the Object Agreement Constraint (OAC): if the verbal complex encodes object agreement, no other argument can be licensed through verbal agreement.


Agreement Animacy Person case constraint (PCC) Object Agreement Constraint (OAC) Clitic clusters Ditrinsitive Constructions Applicative object 


  1. Adger, D., & Harbour, D. (2004). The syntax and syncretisms of the person case constraint to appear in MITWPL.Google Scholar
  2. Albizu P. (1997a). Generalized person-case constraint: A case for a syntax-driven inflectional morphology. In: Mendikoetxea A., Uribe-Etxebarria M. (eds) Theoretical issues on the morphology-syntax interface, Supplements of the Anuario del Seminario Julio de Urquijo # 40. San Sebastián, Diputación Foral de Guipúzcoa, pp. 1–34Google Scholar
  3. Albizu, P. (1997b). The syntax of person agreement. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  4. Albizu P. (2002). Datibo sintagmen izaera sintaktikoaren inguruan: Eztabaidarako oinarrizko zenbait datu. In: Fernández B., Albizu P. (eds) Kasu eta komunztaduraren gainean/On Case and Agreement. Bilbao, University of the Basque Country Publications, pp. 9–70Google Scholar
  5. Anagnostopoulou, E. (1999). Dative argument and clitic doubling. ms., MIT.Google Scholar
  6. Anagnostopoulou E. (2002). The syntax of ditransitives: Evidence from clitics. Berlin, Mouton de GruyterGoogle Scholar
  7. Arregi, E. (2003a). Dative alternations in basque. ms., University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU).Google Scholar
  8. Arregi, E. (2003b). Possessor dative constructions in Basque must be derived. ms., University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU).Google Scholar
  9. Baker M. (1988). Incorporation. Chicago, Chicago University PressGoogle Scholar
  10. Baker M. (1996). The polysynthesis parameter. Oxford, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  11. Barss A., Lasnik H. (1986). A note on anaphora and double objects. Linguistic Inquiry, 17, 347–353Google Scholar
  12. Bejar, S., & Rezac, M. (2006). Cyclic agree and the derivation of PCC effects. (to appear) In A. T. Pérez-Leroux, & Y. Roberge (Eds.), Selected papers from LSRL XXXII. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  13. Blake B. (1987). Australian aboriginal grammar. Camberra, Croom HelmGoogle Scholar
  14. Bleam, T. M. (2000). Leísta Spanish and the syntax of clitic doubling. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware.Google Scholar
  15. Boeckx C. (2000). Quirky agreement. Studia Linguistica, 54, 354–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Boeckx C. (2004). Long distance agreement in Hindi: Theoretical implications. Studia Linguistica, 58, 23–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bonet, E. (1991). Morphology after syntax: Pronominal clitics in Romance. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA.Google Scholar
  18. Borer H., Grodzinsky Y. (1986). Syntactic cliticization and lexical cliticization: The case of Hebrew dative clitics. In: Borer H. (eds) Syntax and semantics, Vol. 19. New York, Academic Press, pp. 175–215Google Scholar
  19. Bresnan J., Moshi L. (1990). Object asymmetries in comparative Bantu syntax. Linguistic Inquiry, 21, 147–185Google Scholar
  20. Brugè L., Brugger G. (1996). On the accusative a in Spanish. Probus, 8, 1–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Chomsky N. (1995). The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA, MIT PressGoogle Scholar
  22. Chomsky N. (2000). Minimalist inquiries: The framework. In: Martin R. et al. (eds) Step by step: Papers in honour of Howard Lasnik. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, pp. 289–155Google Scholar
  23. Chomsky N. (2001). Derivation by phase. In: Kenstowicz M. (eds) Ken Hale: A life in language. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, pp. 1–52Google Scholar
  24. Dowty D. (1991). Thematic Proto-roles and argument selection. Language, 67, 547–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dryer M.S. (1986). Primary objects, secondary objects, and antidative. Language, 62, 808–845CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Evans N. (1997). Role or Cast? Noun incorporation and complex Predicates in Mayali. In: Alsina A. et al. (eds) Complex predicates. Stanford, CSLI, pp. 397–430Google Scholar
  27. Fernández-Ordóñez, I. (1999). Leísmo, laímo y loísmo. In I. Bosque, & V. Demonte (Eds.), Gramática descriptiva de la lengua española (pp. 1317–1397). Madrid: Espasa Calpe.Google Scholar
  28. Fernández Soriano, O. (1989). Rección y ligamiento en español: aspectos del parámetro del sujeto nulo. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.Google Scholar
  29. Franco, J. (1993). On object agreement in Spanish. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  30. Hale K. (1973). Person marking in Walbiri. In: Anderson S., Kiparsky P. (eds) A Festschrift for Morris Halle. New York, Holt, Reinhart and Winston, pp. 308–344Google Scholar
  31. Hanson, R. (2000). Pronoun acquisition and the morphological feature geometry. In S. Atkey, J. Carson, & M. Dobrovolsky. (Eds.), Calgary working papers in linguistics (Vol. 22, pp. 1–4). Calgary.Google Scholar
  32. Harley H., Ritter E. (2002). Structuring the bundle: A universal morphosyntactic feature geometry. In: Simon H., Weise H. (eds) Pronouns: Features and representation. Amsterdam, John Benjamins, pp. 23–39Google Scholar
  33. Harris A.C. (1981). Georgian Syntax: A study in relational grammar. Cambridge, Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  34. Haspelmath, M. (2001). Explaining the ditransitive person-role constraint: A usage-based approach. ms., Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie.Google Scholar
  35. Hualde J.I. (1989). Double object constructions in KiRimi. In: Newman P., Botne R. (eds) Current approaches to African linguistics Vol. 5. Dordrecht, ForisGoogle Scholar
  36. Huang J. (1984). On the distribution and reference of empty pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry, 15, 531–574Google Scholar
  37. de Jong, J. J. (1996). The case of bound pronouns in peripherial Romance. Groningen Dissertations in Linguistics, Groningen.Google Scholar
  38. Koizumi, M. (1995). Phrase structure in Minimalist syntax. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  39. Laka I. (1993). The structure of inflection: A case study in X0-syntax. In: Hualde J.I., Ortiz de Urbina J.(eds) Generative studies in Basque linguistics. Amsterdam & Philadelphia, John Benjamins, pp. 21–70Google Scholar
  40. Landa, A. (1995). Conditions on null objects in Basque Spanish and their relation to Leísmo and clitic doubling. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  41. Larson, M. (2002). The semantics of object drop in Baule. In M. Nissim (Ed.), Proceedings of the 7th ESSLLI Student Session (pp. 1–10).Google Scholar
  42. Leonetti M. (2004). Specificity and differential object marking in Spanish. Catalan Journal of Linguistics, 3, 75–114Google Scholar
  43. Masullo, P. (1992). Incorporation and Case theory in Spanish: A crosslinguistic perspective. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle.Google Scholar
  44. Mithun M. (1984). The evolution of noun incorporation. Language, 60, 847–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ormazabal J. (2000). A conspiracy theory of case and agreement. In: Martin R. et al. (eds) Step by step: Papers in honor of Howard Lasnik. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, pp. 235–260Google Scholar
  46. Ormazabal, J., & Romero, J. (1998a). Attract-F: A case against case. Paper presented at the 21st GLOW Conference, Tilburg.Google Scholar
  47. Ormazabal J., Romero J. (1998b). On the syntactic nature of the me-lui and the Person-Case Constraint. Anuario del Seminario Julio de Urquijo, 32, 415–434Google Scholar
  48. Ormazabal, J. & Romero, J. (2002). Agreement restrictions. ms., University of the Basque Country (EHU)/Basque Center for Language Research (LEHIA) and University of Alcalá/U. Autónoma de Madrid.Google Scholar
  49. Ormazabal J., Romero J. (2003). Komunztadura, hiru ikuspegi (II): Absolutibo komuntadurarik eza. In: Gorrotxategi J. (eds) Basque and (Paleo)Hispanic studies. In the wake of Michelena’s work. Bilbao, University of the Basque Country Publications, pp. 315–332Google Scholar
  50. Ormazabal, J. & Romero, J. (2004). Clitics and agreement. In O. Crouzet (Ed.), Proceedings of the III Journées d’Études Linguistiques de Nantes (JEL’2004). University of Nantes.Google Scholar
  51. Ormazabal, J., & Romero, J. (2006). Object clitics, determiners, and agreement. ms., University of the Basque Country/Hitt, University of Extremadura.Google Scholar
  52. Pensado C. (1995). El complemento directo preposicional. Visor, MadridGoogle Scholar
  53. Perlmutter D. (1971). Deep and surface structure constraints in syntax. New York, Rinehart & Winston IncGoogle Scholar
  54. Reinhart T., Reuland E. (1993). Reflexivity. Linguistic Inquiry, 24, 657–720Google Scholar
  55. Rezac M. (2003). The fine structure of cyclic agree. Syntax, 6, 156–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rezac, M. (2004). Elements of cyclic syntax: Agree and merge. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  57. Rivero M.L., Sheppard M.M. (2003). Indefinite reflexive Clitics in Slavic: Polish and Slovenian. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 21, 89–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Roca, F. (1992). On the licensing of pronominal clitics: The properties of object clitics in Spanish and Catalan. MA thesis, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.Google Scholar
  59. Roca F. (1996). Morfemas objetivos y determinantes: los clíticos del español. Verba, 23, 83–119Google Scholar
  60. Romero, J. (1997). Construcciones de doble objeto y gramática universal. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.Google Scholar
  61. Romero, J. (1999). The case of agreement. In K. Arregui, B. Bruening, & V. Lin (Eds.), Papers on syntax and morphology(MITWPL 33) (pp. 343–368). Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  62. Romero J. (2001a). A note on Case (mis)-match in Spanish. Cuadernos de Lingüística del I.U. Ortega y Gasset, 8, 97–104Google Scholar
  63. Romero, J. (2001b). On the representational nature of case. ms., U. Autónoma de Madrid/U. de Alcalá de Henares.Google Scholar
  64. Rude N. (1986). Topicality, transitivity and the direct object in Nez Perce. International Journal of American Linguistics, 52, 124–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Saah, K. K. (1992). Null object construction in akan. In C. Collins, & V. Manfredi (Eds.), Proceedings of the Kwa comparative syntax workshop, MITWPL (Vol. 17, pp. 219–244).Google Scholar
  66. Silverstein, M. (1976). Hierarchy of features and ergativity. In R. M. W. Dixon (Ed.), Grammatical categories in Australian languages (pp. 112–171). Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. [Reprinted in P. Muysken, & H. van Riemsdijk. (1986). Features and projections, Foris, Dordrecht, pp. 163–232.]Google Scholar
  67. Suñer M. (1988). The role of agreement in clitic-doubled constructions. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 6, 391–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Torrego E. (1998). The dependencies of objects. Cambridge, MA, MIT PressGoogle Scholar
  69. Uriagereka, J. (1988). On Government. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Connecticut, Storrs.Google Scholar
  70. Uriagereka J. (1995). Aspects of the syntax of clitic placement in Western Romance. Linguistic Inquiry, 26, 79–124Google Scholar
  71. Uriagereka J. (1996). Warps: some thoughts on categorization. Cuadernos de Lingüística de IU. Ortega y Gasset, 4, 1–38Google Scholar
  72. Woolford E. (2000). Agreement in disguise. In: Carstens V., Parkinson F. (eds) Advances in African linguistics. Trenton, Africa World Press, pp. 103–117Google Scholar
  73. Wurm S.A. (1976). Accusative marking in Duudidjawu (Waga-waga). In: Dixon R.M.W. (eds) Grammatical categories in Australian languages. Canberra, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Languages, pp. 106–111Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and Basque Studies (HEIS)/Group of Theoretical Linguistics (HiTT)University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU)Vitoria-GasteizSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Filología HispánicaUniversidad de ExtremaduraCáceresSpain

Personalised recommendations