Network Core Mechanisms of Exponence

Givón, Talmy (1976)


Givón claims that cross-linguistically, agreement markers arise historically from the reanalysis of resumptive pronouns which relate anaphorically to a left or right dislocated topic. (so-called “NPdetachment”). This change goes hand in hand with another major reanalysis. Due to an over-use of the stylistically marked sentences involving NP-detachment (Givón calls this process 'de-marking'), the former dislocation structures are reinterpreted as the 'neutral syntax', with the former topic becoming the new subject. In other words, Givón assumes that the diachronic source of grammatical agreement is some form of ‘topic-agreement’. The affixation of the former (free) resumptive pronoun to the verb is attributed to the fact that unstressed pronouns often cliticize to the verb, which facilitates a reanalysis as part of the verbal inflection. A similar process is taken to be the source of object agreement, with topicalized objects being reanalyzed as residing in their base or case position and resumptive clitics reanalyzed as markers of object agreement. The observation that crosslinguistically, subject agreement is the most frequent case of grammatical agreement is then attributed to the prominence of subjects in the topicality hierarchy proposed by Givón. Furthermore, the fact that in many languages subjects must be either definite or generic (Givón mentions Mandarin, Kinyarwanda and Malagasy as examples. Similar restrictions can be found in many Austronesian languages such as Indonesian, Tagalog etc.) is taken to follow from the origin of these subjects as former topics, which are generally subject to similar restrictions (either definite or generic, but never referential-indefinite).

authorGivón, Talmy
titleTopic, Pronoun, and Grammatical Agreement
editorLi, C. N.
booktitleSubject and Topic
addressNew York
publisherAcademic Press


    author = {Givón, Talmy},
    year = {1976},
    title = {Topic, Pronoun, and Grammatical Agreement},
    booktitle = {Subject and Topic},
    editor = {Li, C. N.},
    address = {New York},
    publisher = {Academic Press},
    pages = {149-188},
last changed: