På väg mot en förståelse av fenomenet inkongruent predikativ - Ett försök att beskriva och förklara fenomenet samt skildra dess forskningshistoria

Project: Dissertation


This thesis examines so-called pancake sentences, an agreement anomaly found in Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. In these languages, predicative adjectives typically agree with their subjects in number and grammatical gender. However, with certain subjects the predicative takes a t-form, corresponding to singular neuter, regardless of the number and gender of the subject. Such sentences are commonly referred to as pancake sentences.

The construction in question has been studied since the early 20th century and a great number of analyzes of the phenomenon has been presented. The general aim of my thesis is to generate further understanding of the phenomenon by approaching it from three angles: 1) To scrutinize the research history, with respect to how the phenomenon has been described and explained, and with respect to which background assumptions and ideals the analyzes are grounded in, 2) To describe the phenomenon, firstly by extracting well-founded assumptions and observations from the research history, and secondly by carrying out further empirical studies to complete the picture, 3) To explain the well-known tendency that the disagreeing form occurs with bare subjects, but not with definite ones.

The different approaches of inquiry make use of different types of research material. The body of research used to scrutinize the research history includes 46 studies from 1904 to 2019. My own empirical investigations, which are carried out to complete the picture, make use of corpora containing informal written language. For the explanatory work, my material consists of three hypotheses that are being tested and assessed.

Some important outcomes of the study are that morphophonological signals for gender or number in the subject promote the use of predicative agreement in Swedish, that pancake sentences have existed in all the Mainland Scandinavian languages at least since the 1850s, and that the bare subjects in pancake sentences are best analyzed as defective controllers, on a par with infinitival phrases. The subjects of pancake sentences being defective controllers, the t-form of the predicative is best analysed in terms of the default option.
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