The Vocative – An Outlier Case

Michael Daniel and Andrew Spencer

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

The Vocative – An Outlier Case

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Linguistic Typology



The vocative is a form used for calling out and attracting or maintaining the addressee's attention. Forms of address widely attested in the languages of the world are vocative constructions using vocative particles, vocative prosody, and vocative forms of nominals. Sometimes, the form of address is integrated into the case paradigm of the language, and then we can say there is a vocative case. The strongest notion of ‘case’ is that in which case is cumulated with other categories and/or is marked differently in different inflectional classes (declensions). In Czech, the vocative maintains a complex morphology with a variety of allomorphs and various irregular forms, while in the mutually intelligible Slovak it has disappeared. This article discusses the vocative case and types of marking, including prosody, case forms proper, and vocative particles. It also examines the connection between the vocative case and the nominative case, the functional diversity of vocatives, the core lexical domain exhibiting vocatives, morphosyntax, and peripheral vocative functions.

Keywords: vocative case; marking; prosody; case forms; vocative particles; nominative case; lexical domain; morphosyntax; peripheral vocative functions

Article.  2887 words. 

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

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