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Colloquium: Maria Kouneli

February 10, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Speaker: Maria Kouneli (University of Leipzig)

Title: Upwards-oriented complementizer agreement: The view from Kipsigis


A number of African languages display upwards-oriented complementizer agreement, where the complementizer agrees in phi-features with the matrix subject (e.g., Diercks 2013, Carstens 2016, Letsholo & Safir 2019, Baker 2022). This pattern raises some non-trivial questions about the directionality and locality of Agree. In this talk, I provide an investigation of complementizer agreement in Kipsigis (Nilotic; Kenya), the only documented case of the phenomenon in the Nilo-Saharan family. Based on data from original fieldwork, I argue that what was previously described as an agreeing ‘say’-based complementizer in the language (Diercks & Rao 2019, Diercks et al. 2020) is the lexical verb ‘say’, and what looks like C-Agree is in fact agreement between this verb and its locally introduced (often covert) subject. The analysis highlights that ‘say’-based complementizers might be of category V, and not C, in some languages (Koopman 1984, Major 2021, among others), which in turn means that some cases of upwards-oriented “complementizer” agreement may instantiate standard verbal agreement instead. Genuine cases of complementizer agreement have probably evolved from a Kipsigis-type system; Indirect Agree accounts of the phenomenon, where C agrees with a local silent noun phrase and not directly with the matrix subject (Diercks 2013, Baker 2022) provide a more natural explanation for this diachronic path.


February 10, 2023
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm