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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00942

Plural conjuncts and syncretism facilitate gender agreement in Serbo-Croatian: experimental evidence

Ivana Mitic1 and  Boban Arsenijević2*
  • 1University of Niš, Serbia
  • 2University of Graz, Austria

The literature on agreement in South Slavic generalizes that conjunct agreement in gender is only possible when all conjuncts are plural (e.g. Bošković 2009). Marušič et al. (2015) and Arsenijević & Mitić (2016a, b) attest a significant level of patterns contradicting this claim in elicited production experiments. They weaken the earlier generalization to a facilitating role of plural number for conjunct agreement in gender. However, the stimuli in the two respective experiments involve syncretism between the members of conjunction. The syncretism removes the possibility – at PF at least – that by agreeing with one conjunct, the verb disagrees with the other. It is hence expected to result in a similar surface effect as the facilitation by plurals, which makes it a potential confound variable. We report and discuss the results of an experiment aimed to test both the effect of syncretism and the reality of the facilitating effects of plural number. The results of the experiment yield positive answers to both questions: syncretism is a facilitating factor, but plural number nevertheless has its facilitating effect too – as confirmed by the stimuli without syncretism. Since syncretism is a phenomenon in which phonological information plays a central role, our findings support syntactic models of agreement which extend to the interface with phonology. Moreover, our results reveal a double similarity of conjunct agreement with agreement attraction, in both showing a (stronger) attraction effect of plural number compared to singular, and in being sensitive to syncretism (cf. Badecker and Kuminiak 2007, Malko and Slioussar 2013, i.e. Bader & Meng 2002, Hartsuiker et al. 2003, Slioussar 2018).

Keywords: Sincretism, number, gender, agreement, Serbo-Croatian

Received: 19 Nov 2018; Accepted: 08 Apr 2019.

Edited by:

Simona Mancini, Basque Center in Cognition Brain and Language, Spain

Reviewed by:

Cristiano Chesi, Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori di Pavia (IUSS), Italy
Zeljko Boskovic, University of Connecticut, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Mitic and Arsenijević. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Boban Arsenijević, University of Graz, Graz, Austria, b.arsenijevic@gmail.com