Adjectives in German and Norwegian

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In this paper, we demonstrate that adjective endings in the Germanic languages do not pattern uniformly. We illustrate this with nine syntactic contexts: possessives involving proper names and pronominals, embedded and unembedded proper names, “disagreeing” pronominal DPs, appositives, definite adjectives, vocatives, and discontinuous noun phrases. We show that German is subject to lexical and structural conditions but Scandinavian is semantic in nature. In German, the weak endings are feature-reduced forms, which always have a specific local relation to a certain type of determiner, which triggers the relevant feature reduction. Adopting Distributed Morphology, this reduction in features is implemented by Impoverishment. In Scandinavian, the weak endings are an agreement reflex of a semantic feature. We follow others in that adjectives are in – what is traditionally called – Spec,AgrP. We propose that the relevant semantic feature is on Agr and the adjective agrees with it. Given the language-specific conditions, the strong endings surface in the remaining contexts in both types of languages as the elsewhere case.


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