University of Massachusetts
The typological literature reports instances of only one of the two logically possible types of Case-agreement mismatches: ergative Case systems with nominative-accusative agreement. Why does the opposite mismatch not occur, where a nominative-accusative Case system manifests an ergative agreement pattern? The explanation lies in the close relationship between Case and agreement. Agreeing clitics always match in Case with the arguments (null or overt) that they double, and true agreement normally also matches Case because agreement and Case features are checked by the same head against the same DP. Mismatch can occur only in clauses that lack a nominative, and even then, most languages will simply suspend agreement checking; but some languages do allow a very restricted sort of Case-agreement mismatch in this situation. Languages such as Warlpiri allow the agreement features of Infl/Tense to be checked against an ergative subject when there is no nominative in the clause. Claims in the literature of any more extensive Case-agreement mismatch are due to mislabeled forms.
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