Phi-feature Agreement in Sinhala

M. G. L. Ananda


Recent research on Phi-feature agreement has often attempted to incorporatediscourse phenomena such as topic, focus, and modality into the discussion. Miyagawa,S (2010) argues in relation to Japanese that in discourse configurational languages,topic/focus establishes an Agree relation in the same way as Phi-feature agreement inagreement languages. Aygen, G (2006), with empirical evidence from Turkic languagesTuvan and Kazakh and European Portuguese, Hungarian, and French, proposes thatagreement on C(omplementizer) is involved in licensing Nominative subjects only inthe presence of Epistemic modality on the T(ense) head.

The phi-agreement in Sinhala is manifested only with respect to some speech actmoods such as imperative, interrogative, permissive, and hortative. However, when aparticle indicating evaluative, epistemic, or evidential modality occurs immediatelyafter a DP, the verb takes –e suffix, manifesting some agree relation (a).

a) Nimal/api/mama/eya – lu – gaha – kaepuw-E

N(Nom)/we/I/he (she) – Md Evid – tree – cut-E

Nimal/we/I/he/she, it is said, cut the tree

This paper argues that the Phi-feature agreement in Sinhala (Indo-Aryan, spokenin Sri Lanka) is executed jointly by T(ense) and a MoodP located between T and C. Thas the interpretable Tense feature to value the Case feature of subject DP. MoodP is thelocus of mood and modal features. Both T and MoodP inherit their respective featuresfrom C. The modal features that are inherited by MoodP are epistemic, evaluative, andevidential, whose respective heads are located higher than T and lower than C, as inCinque (1999) hierarchy. It is argued that, by establishing a functional relation betweenT/MoodP and a functional category, a reasonable explanation for Sinhala verbagreement can be formulated. As for methodology, the data will consist of naturalspeech and grammatical judgments of native Sinhala speakers. The theoretical basis isthe Minimalism (Chomsky 1995- ), and Cinque (1999). Analysis and findings will be inline with the native speaker judgments and cross linguistic facts and observations.

Key words: Phi-feature, Modal, Phase, Agreement


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