Max Planck Institute
for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Linguistics

Typological tools for field linguistics


Agreement: Gender and Number

This is a questionnaire designed to investigate agreement in number and gender. It was used as the basis for a number database of fifteen languages that is available on the internet (Surrey Database of Agreement). The following explanation of the subject matter of the questionnaire and database is taken from the database website.

Agreement is found in a high proportion of the world's languages, and its prevalence tends to make us forget what a puzzling phenomenon it is. Basically, agreement is the expression of information in the 'wrong place'. This can be seen even in English sentences as trivial as: the system works intermittently versus the systems work intermittently. Why would we signal the number of systems redundantly on the verb (works versus work) when this is quite clear from system/systems? The information is available in the 'right place' (on the noun system) and redundantly also in the 'wrong place' (on the verb works). However there are cases where it appears only in the wrong place, as in the sheep is grazing versus the sheep are grazing. Agreement in English is in some ways rather straightforward. In other languages the phenomenon is much more complex.

Additional databases from the Surrey Morphology Group are available on their web page.
Topics include syncretism, suppletion, and deponency (as well as agreement). Also available is a dictionary of the Archi villages of South Daghestan, South Caucasus.

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Developed by
Greville Corbett

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