Issues in the Syntax of Case & Agreement

Instructor: András Bárány (


This course will cover some recent developments in the study of the (morpho-)syntax of Case and agreement, e.g. the nature of Agree relations, agreement with non-subject arguments, the relationship between agreement and case-marking, and theories of Case assignment, including dependent Case.
Due to the nature of these phenomena, the course will focus on a range of typologically diverse languages and relatively little on English.

Keywords: Agree, derivational time-bombs, Case-sensitive agreement, Agreement-sensitive case, dependent Case, differential marking, global case splits.


The goals of this course are for students to be able to appreciate and critically assess recent and current work on the nature of Case, case-marking and agreement. On a less theoretical level, the course will also introduce students to interesting phenomena and data from languages and language families that are less well studied than English.


Students should have an understanding of (recent) syntactic and morphological theories, including the Minimalist Program and Distributed Morphology, as well as some knowledge of typological notions like alignment in case-marking and agreement.

However, one of the main goals of the course is to present interesting data from different languages and how they inform linguistic theory. Students of any level should be able to appreciate at least these data-oriented aspects of the course.


Monday, 31 July 2017 In the first session, we will this discuss Agree as discussed by Chomsky (2000, 2001), its role in the syntactic derivation, and the relationship between φ-features and case. We will also start discussing why this “classic” model is inadequate in some respects.
Relevant Literature: Chomsky (1995, 2000, 2001); Halle & Marantz (1993), Embick & Noyer (2007), Siddiqi (2010)

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 We discuss Cyclic Agree and how it can explain phenomena like inverse agreement and the person-case constraint, and we look at fine-grained approaches to person features.
Relevant Literature: Chomsky (2000, 2001); Polinsky & Preminger (2014), Baker (2013)

Wednesday, 2 August 2017 Does Agree determine really the success of derivations as suggested by Chomsky (2000, 2001)? We turn to Preminger’s (2014) work which suggests that Agree can fail without crashing derivations, and look at evidence for this claim.
Relevant Literature: Preminger (2014)

Thursday, 3 August 2017 Enter Case: how do Case and agreement influence each other? Can they determine each other’s form? We discuss these questions, as well as dependent Case theory, an approach to Case assignment that it is becoming popular (again), and typological generalisations regarding Case and agreement alignment.
Relevant Literature: Bobaljik (2008), Baker (2015)

Friday, 4 August 2017 We finish by again looking at the relationship between Case and agreement, and how they can influence each other. Specifically, we look at certain types of differential case-marking and how they can be modelled theoretically.
Relevant Literature: Keine (2010), Georgi (2012), Bárány (2015)


Baker, Mark C. 2013. Agreement and case. In Marcel den Dikken (ed.), e Cambridge handbook of generative syntax, 607–654. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baker, Mark C. 2015. Case: Its principles and its parameters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bárány, András. 2015. Differential object marking in Hungar- ian and the morphosyntax of case and agreement. University of Cambridge PhD dissertation.

Béjar, Susana & Milan Rezac. 2009. Cyclic Agree. Linguistic Inquiry 40(1). 35–73. 2009.40.1.35.

Bobaljik, Jonathan David. 2008. Where’s phi? Agreement as a postsyntactic operation. In Daniel Harbour, David Adger & Susana Béjar (eds.), Phi theory: Phi-features across modules and interfaces, 295–328. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chomsky, Noam. 1995. The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Chomsky, Noam. 2000. Minimalist inquiries: e frame- work. In Roger Martin, David Michaels & Juan Uriagereka (eds.), Step by step: Essays on minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik, 89–155. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by phase. In Michael Ken- stowicz (ed.), Ken Hale: A life in language, 1–52. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Embick, David & Rolf Noyer. 2007. Distributed morphology and the syntax-morphology interface. In Gillian Ramchand & Charles Reiss (eds.), e Oxford handbook of linguistic interfaces, 289–324. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Georgi, Doreen. 2012. A local derivation of global case splits. In Artemis Alexiadou, Tibor Kiss & Gereon Müller (eds.), Local modelling of non-local dependencies in syntax (Lin- guistische Arbeiten 547), 305–336. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Halle, Morris & Alec Marantz. 1993. Distributed Morphology and the pieces of in ection. In Kenneth Hale & Samuel Jay Keyser (eds.), e view from building 20, 111–176. MIT Press.

Keine, Stefan. 2010. Case and agreement from fringe to core: A minimalist approach. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Polinsky, Maria & Omer Preminger. 2014. Case and gram- matical relations. In Andrew Carnie, Yosuke Sato & Daniel Siddiqi (eds.), e routledge handbook of syntax, 150–166. London & New York: Routledge.

Preminger, Omer. 2014. Agreement and its failures. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Siddiqi, Daniel. 2010. Distributed Morphology. Language and Linguistics Compass 4(7). 524–542. 1111/j.1749-818x.2010.00212.x.