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4.3 Overt arguments with verbal agreement: subject & object 

Like agreeing subjects, objects that agree with a noun class marker on the verb exhibit adjunct characteristics. In the following, I will present a number of supporting arguments from different sources.  

4.3.1 Word Order

With pronominal noun class prefixes on the verb for subject and object, all word order permutations are grammatical:  


This seemingly nonconfigurational behavior is, of course, expected if agreeing arguments are analysed as adjuncts. The Siswati facts in (23c,d) below correspond to (22e,f) in Zulu and show that an agreeing object is free to adjoin pre-verbally, which is ungrammatical for non-agreeing objects in (19 c,d).


            (23a, b) show that an agreeing object may not intervene between the verb and a manner adverb. Thwala 1996: 233 thus argues that such objects have the same distribution as sentential adverbs, i.e. they are TP-adjuncts. This raises the question of whether there is a subject-object asymmetry: after all, the subject was shown to occur between non-agreeing objects and manner adverbs at least in a contrastive reading. My data do not show whether a contrastive reading may save a pre-adverbial object as well, so I will not further speculate on potential differences here.     

            In double object constructions, Siswati allows either THEME or GOAL agreement on the verb. Similar to simple transitive constructions, the non-agreeing object is required to remain adjacent to the verb, such that neither adverbials nor argument-type adjuncts may intervene. (cf. Thwala 215-216). In terms of agreement and adjunct-licensing, this behavior is just as expected.

4.3.2 Phonological Phrasing

Van der Spuy 1993 discusses phonological evidence showing that agreeing objects are not located within VP even if they occur post-verbally. In Zulu, phonological phrases are marked by lengthening of the penultimate syllable in the phrase-final word. Van der Spuy 1993: 351 observes that verbal complexes with an object NC marker undergo penultimate lengthening to the exclusion of overt object DPs. Assuming that phonological phrasing reflects syntactic constituency[1], he concludes that agreeing object DPs are not located within the XP containing the verb.


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[1]                 Proposals for syntactic structure determining phonological phrasing include Selkirk (1984, 1995), Nespor and Vogel (1986), Ghini (1993), Truckenbrodt (1995).