Syntactic Effects of Morphological Case

Ad Neeleman and Fred Weerman

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Syntactic Effects of Morphological Case

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



It is a long-standing though controversial claim that morphological case has syntactic effects. In particular, word order freedom has been argued to be dependent on the presence of overt case markers. Thus, Latin and Classical Greek have both a rich case system and very free word order, while languages like Dutch and English lack both. If there is a connection between morphological case and syntax, this does not only make typological and diachronic predictions of the sort discussed here, but also predictions about language acquisition. This article explores a number of potential effects of morphological case that have to be encoded in grammar. Alongside word order effects, it also considers generalisations that have to do with the form of constituents with particular grammatical functions. For example, quirky subjects (overt subjects that fail to agree with the finite verb in a structure that otherwise has subject-verb agreement) are found exclusively in languages with morphological case.

Keywords: Dutch; syntactic effects; morphological case; syntax; grammar; word order; case markers; language acquisition; grammatical functions; quirky subjects

Article.  5337 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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