Case and Contact Linguistics

Lars Johanson

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Case and Contact Linguistics

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



Language contact affects case categories in various ways. This article examines the effects of contacts between linguistic codes (languages, unrelated or related, or language varieties): changes in one code on the model of another. It deals with inflectional case markers, affixes, and adpositions from which they evolve. Though most adpositions express more specific relations, some are relatively desemanticised. Affixes and case-like adpositions may fulfil similar functions; the close correspondences between Dravidian case suffixes and Indic postpositions. Case markers and case functions are acquired through what is called ‘borrowing’, ‘diffusion’, ‘transfer’, ‘interference’, ‘replication’, etc. Speakers copy case markers or case functions from a model code (a ‘source’, ‘donor’, or ‘diffusing’ language) and insert the copies into their basic code (a ‘recipient’ or ‘replica’ language). The term ‘copying’ is used to stress the non-identity of models and copies. This article also discusses selective copying and grammaticalisation, copiabililty and stages of grammaticalisation, copying of valency patterns, polysemy and syncretism, and impoverished case systems.

Keywords: case; language contact; linguistic codes; case markers; replication; transfer; selective copying; polysemy; syncretism; grammaticalisation

Article.  2636 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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