Case In Iranian

Donald Stilo

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Case In Iranian

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



Gathic Avestan, the earliest documented form of Old Iranian, had a rich case system typical of archaic Indo-European languages: three genders, eight cases in the singular, a six-term plural, and a four-term dual. Old Persian, a somewhat later stage of Old Iranian, had already begun some case syncretisation with the old dative merging into the genitive. By the very earliest stages of Middle Persian and Parthian, gender and the dual were already completely lost and further stages of case syncretisation yielded a two-case system: the null-marked Direct case versus the Oblique case derived from the original genitive. Reduction or loss of case throughout Iranian and the emergence of numerous innovations have led to a bewildering array of compensating strategies whose evolution can be characterised by the interplay of three axes/dimensions: the Reduction Axis, the Innovation Axis, and the Nominal-Pronominal Axis. This article discusses the evolution of case in West Iranian languages, focusing on floating clitics and word order.

Keywords: West Iranian languages; floating clitics; word order; case; loss; reduction; innovations; Reduction Axis; Innovation Axis; Nominal-Pronominal Axis

Article.  4374 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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