The Ties That Bind: Creating Number Agreement in Speech

Kathryn Bock, Janet Nicol, J. Cooper Cutting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Coherence in language relies in part on basic devices like number agreement. To assess meaning-based (notional) versus form-based (morphological) control of number agreement, we examined how speakers created number agreement for collective nouns, which can carry conflicting notional and morphological number. The agreement targets were verbs and two types of pronouns, produced in the course of a sentence-completion task. Comparisons of the verbs and pronouns indicated that verbs tended to reflect the morphological number of the collective controller, whereas pronouns were more likely to reflect the notional number. This argues that the number features of pronouns may be retrieved under control from the speaker's meaning, while the number features of verbs are more likely to be retrieved under control from the utterance's form. The implication is that the retrieval of words during language production is influenced by two distinct types of information, consistent with an inflectional account of agreement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-346
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1999


  • Agreement; number; verbs; pronouns; language production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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