Varieties of Accusative

Seppo Kittilä and Andrej L. Malchukov

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Varieties of Accusative

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Linguistic Typology



The core function of the accusative case is to encode the affected participant in a transitive clause. Finnish is representative of a nominative-accusative language because it shows that Patient objects of canonical transitive clauses will be eligible for acc case marking. In many languages, acc marking extends beyond semantically transitive clauses taking Agent and Patient arguments (such as ‘kill’ or ‘break’). Affectedness, a defining property of a patient, is not the only feature that determines (acc) marking of Os. Given that pronominals frequently display idiosyncratic behaviour as compared to nouns, differential marking of pronominal and nominal Os may seem a merely morphological matter. Accusative markers may attach either to a direct object or to other elements of clauses. This article discusses the formal varieties of the accusative case and examines the role of other features such as animacy for object marking. It uses the term acc (case) in a broad sense which will include, apart from case proper, also other forms of ‘dependent-marking’ including clitics, particles, and adpositions. Finally, the article considers functional varieties and polysemy patterns.

Keywords: Finnish; accusative case; animacy; object marking; polysemy; clitics; particles; adpositions; pronominals; case marking

Article.  4469 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology ; Linguistic Typology

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