Agree without Agreement: Switch-reference and reflexive voice in two Panoan languages

Mark Baker, Livia Camargo Souza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We show that the same Universal Grammar mechanism of Agree can have two quite different grammatical effects: normal agreement in person-number-gender features, or inducing a referential dependency between two designated DPs. As an instance of the latter, we study the switch-reference systems of two Panoan languages, Shipibo and Yawanawa. In addition to the fairly widespread distinction between same-subject (SS) and different-subject (DS) adjunct clauses, these languages also have clauses that are marked as having the object of the adjunct clause coreferential with the matrix subject (OS). We show that the coexistence of SS and OS makes it extra-clear that Agree is at work to establish a relationship between the switch-reference head and the “pivot” DP, since the relationship has all the properties characteristic of Agree: c-command, intervention, phase-restrictedness, and sensitivity to oblique case. We claim that SS and OS are the result of Agree-Link applying to create a pointer from a functional head to a DP, but Agree-Copy not applying to copy phi-features from the pointed-to DP back to the head (“Agree without agreement”)—a distinction that is independently motivated by recent studies of phi-agreement. When Agree-Copy does not apply, the pointers created by Agree-Link survive to LF, where they are interpreted as referential dependency. In contrast, DS is a default construction, used wherever SS and OS cannot be. We conclude by showing that this analysis of switch-reference extends naturally to account for the reflexive voice construction in Shipibo and other languages, illustrating the generality of the approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Agree
  • Agreement
  • Panoan languages
  • Reflexive voice
  • Shipibo
  • Switch-reference
  • Yawanawa

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