The Person-Case Constraint (PCC) is a constraint on which arguments can co-occur in a construction such as a causative/applicative/ditransitive. It might cause a combination of persons to be ungrammatical or to be unavailable for processes like cliticization/agreement. It is a restriction that one argument must be "more local" in personhood, where 1(>)2>3. In Hakha Lai, the language I am interested in, you cannot use (most) applicatives in cases where the applicative object is less local than the theme. This is possibly because the verb wants to agree with the more local argument in general in HL, but the applicative also is highly prioritized for agreement (and other processes which enhance topicality). In the causative construction, this problem does not arise because there is default agreement with the causee.

So, you cannot have a third person applicative object if the theme (direct object) is first or second person, and there is a weaker violation if the applicative is second person and the theme is first person. So, here would be the HL pattern, with the theme in bold and the (benefactive) applicative in italics:

ok He followed him for you.
ok He followed him for me.
ok He followed you for me.
?? He followed me for you.
* He followed me for him.
* He followed you for him.

I am wondering if any languages with more robust person distinctions, for example a an inclusive/exclusive distinction, have a PCC. I would be interested in knowing whether there are any unique effects, for example if inclusive is more local than exclusive, whether it patterns with 1st rather than 2nd, etc.

  • have you looked at the literature on Oceanic languages?
    – user483
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 16:03
  • @jlovegren, No I haven't. Do you know of any good descriptions?
    – user325
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 18:01
  • I don't see why the fourth example is questionable. Also, the fifth and sixth examples are only unacceptable if "He" and "him" are coreferential. Otherwise, they're okay AFAICT. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 22:44
  • @JamesGrossmann My understanding is that the examples demonstrate the pattern found in Hakha Lai; it's not meant to be about their grammaticality in English. (Or are you a speaker of Hakha Lai and giving your own grammaticality judgement?) Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 9:07
  • @JamesGrossmann Just re-read my comment above, I hope my parenthetical comment comes across as (vaguely?) amusing, rather than sarcastic. If the latter, I apologise. Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


Preliminarily, I've found in Nevins 2007 five examples which have PCC and inclusive-exclusive, and this distinction never plays a role in conditioning PCC effects. Nevins argues this is because [addressee] (the feature distinguishing inc/exc) is privative. Since his theoretical framework (multiple agree) permits only marked or contrastive features can play a role in PCC, and only binary features can be marked or contrastive, [addressee] is not expected to play any role. I presume based on his description (although he does not explicitly say so) that in these languages first person inclusive patterns with first person, not second person.

1) Kiowa (Kiowa-Tanoan family; Daniel Harbour, pers. comm., Nov. 2005)
2) Passamaquoddy (Algonquian family; Leavitt, 1996, Benjamin Bruening and Conor Quinn, pers. comm. March 2006)
3) Yimas (Foley, 1991: 212-214)
4) Walpiri (Pama-Nyungan; Hale, 1973: 332-338, Julie Legate & pers. comm. May 2006)
5) Chinook (Silverstein, 1976: 190-194)

Currently investigating: Tseltal (thanks to Aaron for reference)

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