Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 593–634 | Cite as

Clitic doubling or object agreement: the view from Amharic



Object agreement is the realization of phi features on v, whereas clitic doubling is often analyzed as the movement of a D head in order to attach to a verb. In principle, these two phenomena are distinct, but in practice they can be difficult to distinguish. In this paper, I take up the issue for the Amharic object marker, a morpheme that co-varies with the phi features of an internal argument. Evidence from its distribution and morphological form indicate that it is a doubled clitic, but it also displays a handful of properties characteristic of agreement. Building on some of the most recent clitic doubling research, I develop an Agree-based clitic doubling analysis of the object marker that accounts for both its doubled clitic-like and agreement-like properties. Overall, the paper is a case study in how to distinguish clitic doubling and agreement in a particular language, and an investigation of how to capture the relationship between these two deeply similar phenomena in linguistic theory.


Syntax Morphology Clitic doubling Agreement Clitics Amharic 



Many thanks to two anonymous reviewers for thoughtful, detailed commentary that vastly improved the paper. Special thanks also go Mark Baker for stimulating discussion from the very beginning of this project. Additional thanks are due to Line Mikkelsen, Mark Norris, Héctor Campos, Tonia Bleam, Jeff Lidz, Julie Legate, Susan Steele, Aviad Eilam, Kyle Rawlins, Girma Demeke and audiences at the 41st Annual Conference on African Linguistics, at Harvard University, and at the UC Santa Cruz Morphology Reading Group for highly useful comments and questions. I owe a particular debt of gratitude to the Amharic consultants whose judgments shaped this work, especially Mahlet Tadesse, Mehret Getachew Tadesse, Mahi Megra, Girma Demeke, Girma Halefom, Bezza Ayalew, and Mengistu Amberber. All errors are my own.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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