Case in Formal Semantics

Helen de Hoop and Joost Zwarts

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 Formal Semantics

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  • Linguistics
  • Semantics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



Case has not received a lot of attention from formal semanticists, probably because the approach has mostly focused on languages with relatively sparse case systems. This article examines how formal tools are being used in the study of the meaning of case. There are many semantic aspects of case that lend themselves to such a treatment, such as argument structure, quantification, aspect, and space. This article looks at the application of formal semantics to case in the domains of argument structure and space. First, it considers work in which the central notions of grammatical function and noun phrase interpretation play an important role in relation to case marking. It then explores Keenan's (1989) semantic case theory, and de Hoop's (1992) and van Geenhoven's (1996) type-shifting approaches to case and voice alternations. Following Krifka (1992) and Kiparsky (1998), the article shows how the mereological approach can account for the semantics of partitive case in Finnish. The article concludes with a discussion on case and spatial structure.

Keywords: Finnish; formal semantics; case; argument structure; aspect; space; type-shifting; spatial structure; semantic case theory; voice alternations

Article.  4426 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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