Agreement with the head of Russian relative constructions and detached attributive phrases

2015. № 2 (30), 74-97

Maria A. Kholodilova, Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences


Long-distance agreement controlled by the head of Russian relative clauses and attributive phrases is partly determined by the case of the controller. Verbal predicates in relative clauses are more likely to agree with the head in number, person, and gender if the head noun is in the nominative case. With respect to number and person agreement, this tendency results in grammatical preferences, while the tendency for gender agreement with nominative heads is merely statistical. In detached attributive phrases, agreement occurs between the head and predicative nominals. Case agreement is either restricted to nominative-marked heads (for primary predicates) or follows the Case Markedness Hierarchy (nominative < accusative < dative < genitive, for predicative phrases with the word kak ‘as’), agreement being preferred for the less marked cases. The observed tendency can arguably be motivated if the position of the head of the attributive phrase is analyzed as intermediate between internal and external to the phrase. As a consequence, agreement occurs more readily if the form of the head noun determined by its position in the main clause allows it to control predicate agreement in the subordinate clause.