The Distribution of Case

Edith A. Moravcsik

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 The Distribution of Case

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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A case marker is a formal device associated with a noun phrase that signals the grammatical role of that noun phrase. ‘Formal device’ includes segmental morphemes (affixes, clitics, stem modification, suppletion) and suprasegmentals (stress, pitch). Of these, the discussion in this article is restricted to segmental markers: case affixes and adpositions. The aspect of case marking that forms the topic of this article is its distribution. ‘Distribution’ refers to the conditions under which something must or may occur. Describing the distribution of an element within a linguistic structure involves two components: selection (what element occurs with what other elements) and linear order (temporal precedence relations among co-occurring elements). This article considers a hypothesis that excludes one-to-zero relations between case markers and noun phrases with grammatical roles. Generally, case markers have unique positions relative to the noun phrase. However, there are departures from this pattern.

Keywords: segmental markers; affixes; adpositions; distribution; case marking; selection; linear order; noun phrases; grammatical roles; case markers

Article.  5163 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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