Bárány András (MTA NYTI)

Object agreement in Hungarian: person features, syntax and morphology


I present an analysis of Hungarian object agreement with personal pronouns. I adopt the view that Hungarian has a so-called "inverse agreement" system (cf. É. Kiss 2003, 2005, 2013). Crucially, I propose that all personal pronouns trigger object agreement and this agreement is not always spelled out (e.g. with first person objects). The spell-out of agreement is determined by both syntax and morphology. Syntax provides two types of derivations, direct and inverse, which differ in whether the verb (more precisely, v) can only agree with the object, or with both the subject and the object.  

This difference is a consequence of representing "person" not as an atomic notion, but as consisting of sets of features (Harley and Ritter 2002, Béjar and Rezac 2009). The interaction of syntax and this approach to person allows modelling hierarchical effects without relying on "actual" hierarchies (cf. Aissen 2003).  

Morphological processes (like fusion and impoverishment) account for some of the cross-linguistic variation in different types of inverse agreement systems: while many Native American languages have overt inverse agreement markers, Hungarian lacks these. Object agreement with first person pronouns is therefore never pronounced, but syntactically present.