Number Agreement in British and American English: Disagreeing to Agree Collectively Journal Articles uri icon

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  • British andAmerican speakers exhibit different verb number agreement patterns when sentence subjects have collective headnouns. From linguistic andpsycholinguistic accounts of how agreement is implemented, three alternative hypotheses can be derived to explain these differences. The hypotheses involve variations in the representation of notional number, disparities in how notional andgrammatical number are used, and inequalities in the grammatical number specifications of collective nouns. We carriedout a series of corpus analyses, production experiments, andnorming studies to test these hypotheses. The results converge to suggest that British and American speakers are equally sensitive to variations in notional number andimplement subjectverb agreement in much the same way, but are likely to differ in the lexical specifications of number for collectives. The findings support a psycholinguistic theory that explains verb and pronoun agreement within a parallel architecture of lexical andsyntactic formulation.


  • Bock, Kathryn
  • Butterfield, Sally
  • Cutler, Anne
  • Cutting, J Cooper
  • Eberhard, Kathleen M
  • Humphreys, Karin

publication date

  • March 2006