The Case Tier

Joan Maling

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780199206476
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

The Case Tier

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



This article presents a theory of case assignment based on a hierarchy of grammatical functions. It focuses on the assignment of the syntactic cases nominative and accusative, singling out two phenomena: nominative objects and case alternations on adverbials of duration. A hierarchical as opposed to a structural analysis of nominative case provides a simple account for the occurrence of nominative objects with dyadic verbs which take oblique subjects, a phenomenon found in many genetically unrelated languages including Icelandic, Finnish, and Korean. Less common are languages in which adverbial noun phrases exhibit case alternations. This article reviews a complex array of case patterns focusing on certain adverbials which are sometimes marked accusative, sometimes nominative, depending on other properties of the clauses in which they occur.

Keywords: case assignment; hierarchy; grammatical functions; nominative objects; case alternations; adverbials of duration; case patterns; clauses; dyadic verbs; nominative case

Article.  5958 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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