Possessor dissension: Agreement mismatch in Ngumpin-Yapa possessive constructions

Felicity Meakins
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  • School of Languages and Cultures, Level 3, Gordon Greenwood Blg, University of Queensland, Brisbane QLD, 4072, Australia
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and Rachel Nordlinger


In this article we describe a possessive construction in the Ngumpin-Yapa languages of Australia which has interesting implications for crosslinguistic models of agreement. In this “possessor dissension” construction, the possessor NP remains a modifier within the larger possessive NP, yet both the possessor and the possessum are cross-referenced with clause-level agreement morphology. Thus, there is a type of morphosyntactic disagreement (or dissension) between the syntactic position of the possessor as an NP-internal argument and its being agreed with at the clausal level as if it were a clausal argument. This phenomenon has had only limited mention in the typological literature, and has not previously been discussed for Australian languages. We discuss the properties of the construction, how it can be distinguished from other related construction types, and its implications for the typology of agreement.

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