Evolution of Case Systems

Leonid Kulikov

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Evolution of Case Systems

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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New cases may arise by adding adverbs, postpositions, and (rarely) prepositions; by adding existing case markers to other case forms, which results in ‘multilayer’ case marking; from demonstrative pronouns or articles. New case forms may also go back to denominal adjectives and adverbials incorporated into the case paradigm. An important mechanism of the rise of new case(s) is the splitting of one case into two by borrowing of a new case marker from a different declension type. This article also discusses the main processes within case systems that do not lead to quantitative changes but help to resist phonetic erosion (stable case systems). The mechanisms used to avoid the merger of cases include the borrowing of new inflections from other cases and the adding of free morphemes to old case forms. On the basis of this diachronic typological overview, the article offers a tentative classification of the evolutionary types of languages and briefly explores the main factors determining the evolutionary type of a language.

Keywords: case systems; adverbs; case marking; adjectives; adverbials; inflections; morphemes; case forms; language; case markers

Article.  6616 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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