I am proud to announce that my student Paulina Lyskawa (co-advised with Maria Polinsky) has defended her PhD thesis!
The thesis, Coordination without grammar-internal feature resolution, presents an extended argument that so-called “resolved” agreement with coordinations (in those cases where agreement doesn’t target just the closest conjunct) is actually not a grammatical phenomenon at all (!). In particular, Paulina argues that when the agreement controller is a coordination, the grammar successfully links the finite verb with the coordination, but is unable to generate an actual agreeing form or feature-set for the finite verb to bear, and resources completely external to the grammar are recruited to fill the void. Under certain circumstances, this can give rise to the appearance of a systematic grammatical mechanism. But in other cases, it gives rise to: (i) inter- and intra-speaker variability, as well as speaker uncertainty and even ineffability, in people’s judgments concerning the appropriate agreement form to use with a given coordination; and (ii) a variety of strategies – some which are form-based, others which are meaning-based, and yet others which are purely a matter of social convention – which are all thrown “into the the breach” so to speak.
(UPDATE: The thesis is now available on lingbuzz.)