When agreement gets trigger-happy

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Abstract

A number of cases are examined in which more than one controller is available for a particular agreement slot, a phenomenon that is referred to as ‘trigger-happy’ agreement. It is argued that trigger-happy agreement is a reasonably well-defined phenomenon, although it does form one end of a cline—essentially of grammaticalisation—that has ‘well behaved’ agreement at the other end. It is shown that trigger-happy agreement shares a number of general properties with agreement in general, in particular sensitivity to topicality and topicworthiness. Possible alternative analyses of trigger-happy agreement are considered and rejected as a general solution.

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