The Geography of Case

Balthasar Bickel and Johanna Nichols

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

The Geography of Case

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



Cases are not evenly distributed worldwide. It is generally known, for example, that cases are common in Eurasia and much less common in Africa. Modern typological research aims at capturing and understanding such continent-wide frequency differences. A fundamental problem of linguistic geography, however, is that it is all too easy for the human eye to detect spatial patterns on a map even when they are artefacts of chance or when they arise simply because some regions have many more different people and languages than others. This article discusses linguistic geography, focusing on biogeographical and culture-historical theories of population movements and contact patterns that define a constant set of areas as predictor variables for statistical modelling (Predictive Areality Theory). It assumes areas as hypotheses and asks what, if any, aspects of case structure and case behaviour are significantly different across the hypothesised areas. It also tests a set of previously established areas against thirty-five typological variables that concern case inventories and various morphological and syntactic properties of case.

Keywords: Predictive Areality Theory; linguistic geography; population movements; contact; case structure; case behaviour; case; case inventories; typological variables; hypothesised areas

Article.  5181 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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