Case Polysemy

Andrej L. Malchukov and Heiko Narrog

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Case Polysemy

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



It is probably true that cases which are restricted to one specific meaning are rarer than cases subsuming several meanings. The origins of these polysemies or syncretisms vary: some are conditioned by phonetic factors, especially pervasive in the situation when a case system collapses, others have a transparent semantic basis. A semantic map is a method of capturing and accounting for regular polysemies of linguistic forms. The semantic map approach has been applied to a number of different domains including case. Although semantic maps were established on the basis of cross-linguistic patterns, it is possible to come up with a plausible map for a single language, provided that this language has several markers, or that different nominals display different types of polysemies. Australian languages are representative of this type of case asymmetry. This article explores the polysemy of case markers and its representation in maps, polysemy patterns and syntactic alignment, grammaticalisation and core case marking, Croft's causal chain model, datives and related functions, comitatives and instrumentals, spatial forms, and case functions.

Keywords: case; polysemy; semantic maps; case markers; syntactic alignment; grammaticalisation; causal chain model; datives; comitatives; instrumentals

Article.  5981 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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