Verbal Agreement with Collective Nominal Constructions: Syntactic and Semantic Determinants

  • Yolanda Fernández-Pena Departamento de Filoloxía Inglesa, Francesa e Alemá. Facultade de Filoloxía e Tradución. Universidade de Vigo


This corpus-based study investigates the patterns of verbal agreement of twenty-three singular collective nouns which take of-dependents (e.g., a group of boys, a set of points). The main goal is to explore the influence exerted by the of-PP on verb number. To this end, syntactic factors, such as the plural morphology of the oblique noun (i.e., the noun in the of-PP) and syntactic distance, as well as semantic issues, such as the animacy or humanness of the oblique noun within the of-PP, were analysed. The data show the strongly conditioning effect of plural of-dependents on the number of the verb: they favour a significant proportion of plural verbal forms. This preference for plural verbal patterns, however, diminishes considerably with increasing syntactic distance when the of-PP contains a non-overtly-marked plural noun such as people. The results for the semantic issues explored here indicate that animacy and humanness are also relevant factors as regards the high rate of plural agreement observed in these constructions.Keywords: agreement; collective; of-PP; distance; animacy; corpus

Author Biography

Yolanda Fernández-Pena, Departamento de Filoloxía Inglesa, Francesa e Alemá. Facultade de Filoloxía e Tradución. Universidade de Vigo
Yolanda Fernández-Pena is a PhD (FPU) researcher in the Language Variation and Textual Categorisation (LVTC) research group at the University of Vigo (Spain). Her research focuses on the linguistic variation of verbal agreement with collective nouns taking of-dependents in Late Modern and Present-Day English. She has presented the preliminary results of her investigation in national and international conferences—organised by the Spanish Association for English and American Studies (AEDEAN), the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE) and the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE)—and has published her results in conference proceedings and international, peer-reviewed journals, such as Corpora and Varieng.


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