Agreement Asymmetries and Word Order in Iraqi Arabic


Agreement asymmetries in the varieties of Arabic have been a topic of continuing attraction. One particularly interesting area where this agreement asymmetry occurs is the case of conjoined subjects. Here Iraqi Arabic, and reportedly other spoken Arabic dialects, differentiate between preverbal and post-verbal subjects. In VS orders the agreement is sometimes with the first conjunct DP while in SV order there is full agreement with the whole conjoined DP. A number of proposals have been suggested to offer a formal account for this asymmetry in Standard Arabic and modern spoken dialects. However, these formal accounts with their single mechanisms fail to deal with the evident variability in the agreement pattern that is exhibited in sentences with VS order. The paper attempts to account for this variability via the investigation of the performance-related processing factors lying behind it. To this effect, a sentence production experiment is conducted that manipulates subject-verb and subject-predicative adjective order. The informants view objects on a poster, name the objects and produce sentences of varying word order that contain two agreement targets. The difference in this order appears to produce a significant difference in the agreement pattern of the agreement target. Post-subject verbs exhibit agreement with the whole conjoined DP, and pre-subject verbs exhibit variability in their agreement pattern, while adjectives do not show this asymmetry since they always occur after the subject. This shows that linear order plays a substantial role in determining agreement in the resolution of the target number.


Murtadha J. Bakir



agreement asymmetry, Iraqi Arabic, linear order, proximity, word order