Case in NSM

Anna Wierzbicka

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Case in NSM

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



The natural semantic metalanguage (NSM) theory of language assumes, with Franz Boas, that the grammatical categories of a language represent a given speech community's interpretation and classification of experience. As Boas put it, ‘Since the total range of personal experience which language serves to express is infinitely varied, and its whole scope must be expressed by a limited number of phonetic groups, it is obvious that an extended classification of experiences must underlie all articulate speech’. To many contemporary linguists, especially cognitive linguists, Boas' view of grammatical categories may seem so uncontroversial as to be hardly worth recalling. For Boas, however, this view had important methodological consequences which are at variance with most contemporary approaches, ‘cognitivist’ or otherwise. This article considers case in NSM, focusing on the Polish dative. First, it discusses metalanguage as a central problem for semantic analysis, and then discusses NSM, psychologically cognitive scenarios for Polish cases, and Polish transitive constructions with the dative.

Keywords: case; natural semantic metalanguage; Franz Boas; grammatical categories; Polish; dative; semantic analysis; transitive constructions

Article.  6497 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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