Consider the derivation of John eats the apples.

(1) [CP C [TP John T [v*P John v*-eats [VP eat [DP the apples]]]]] [uφ] [φ] [uφ] [φ]

The bracket notation above, where the words in boldface type indicate copy/trace.

The phi-feature of the apples and uphi-feature of eat agree. This agreement is not morphologically realized in English.
The phi-feature of John and uphi-feature of T agree. This agreement is realized on the verb eat by -s morpheme. But how? the verb is never in agree relation with John.

Untill Chomsky (1995), Minimalist Program,

  • 3
    Funny, it doesn't look minimal. – jlawler Nov 23 '13 at 1:09
  • Adger 2003, 6.3.3. Subject-verb agreement, pp. 220-222. BTW what makes you say that "the verb is never in Agree relation with John?" – Alex B. Nov 23 '13 at 5:07
  • There seems to be no stage in which the verb enters Agree relation with the subject, doesn't it? – user2765 Nov 23 '13 at 12:23

The mechanism of Agree(ment) has been redefined since Chomsky 1995. Since Chomsky 2000, 2001, it does not rely on Spec-Head agreement anymore. Regarding the relation between the subject and V, if suggest to have a look at Pesetsky & Torrego 2007, who give important references and develop a slightly different, but influential departure from Chomsky's 2000, 2001 definition. Adger 2003 is a good book, but note that his version of agreement is non-standard (as it work up- and downwards).


Chomsky, Noam (2000): “Minimalist inquiries: e framework”. In: Roger Martin & David Michaels & Juan Uriagereka, eds.: Step by Step. Essays on Minimalist Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 89–156.

Chomsky, Noam (2001): “Derivation by phase”. In: Michael Kenstowicz, ed.: Ken Hale, a life in language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Adger, David (2003): Core Syntax. A Minimalist Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pesetsky, David & Esther Torrego (2007): “Thee syntax of valuation and the interpretability of features”. In: Simin Karimi & Vida Samiian & Wendy K. Wilkins, eds.: Syntactic derivation and interpretation. In honor of Joseph E. Emonds. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins, 262–294. doi: 10.1075/la.101.14pes.

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