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Chapter 8. Blackjack!

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Abstract

Adjectives in many Indo-European languages morphologically agree with the nouns they modify in gender, number and case (if the language’s nouns can differ in case). These agreeing items seem to undermine several otherwise broad generalizations about morphology, word order and phrasal stress. Mysteriously, agreement in Germanic languages is limited to pre-nominal attributes, while all adjectives agree in Romance and Slavic languages. This essay proposes to analyze adjectival agreement in terms of a “Derived Nominal Hypothesis,” which assigns agreeing adjectives a word-internal nominal structure whose head is the agreement suffix itself. Consequently, these “adjectives” are actually Nouns (by Lieber’s Right Hand Head Rule), and so qualify as unexceptional heads of NPs. This supports Abney’s controversial conjecture for pre-nominal attributive adjectives (that they are heads of NPs). The Derived Nominal Hypothesis additionally succeeds in making several traditional observations on the behavior of agreeing adjectives fully compatible with current explanatory grammatical theory. It also accounts for many previously puzzling morphological properties of agreement and its syntactic distribution in those languages on which the study primarily focuses, namely Dutch, German, Latin and Czech. To a lesser extent, the essay touches on English adjectival word order and on common properties of Spanish and Latin agreement.

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