From Synthetic to Analytic Case

Andrej N. Sobolev

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 From Synthetic to Analytic Case

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Language Families


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There are two different classifications of South Slavic languages (Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Serbian, Macedonian, and Bulgarian) available which consider them within a single dialect continuum stretching from the Slovenian Alps to the Black Sea: genetic and typological. The change from synthetic case to analytic case in certain South Slavic dialects is the result of many centuries of contact with the neighbouring Balkan languages (particularly East Romanian, Albanian, and Greek). This development began in the sixth–seventh centuries ad and is known as the ‘Balkanisation’ of these languages. A detailed analysis of variations in case marking in dialects with analytic case systems reveals innovative caseless systems on the one hand and, on the other hand, extremely rare archaic systems that preserve certain elements of morphological case in certain nouns and noun groups. For dialects which are intermediate between synthetic and analytic (as, for example, Serbian Kosovo-Resava), it is syntactic variation and the hierarchy of syntactic contexts affecting the preservation of semantic role marking in nominal inflection that provides the best heuristic clues as to how the systems are organised.

Keywords: South Slavic dialects; synthetic case; analytic case; Balkan languages; Balkanisation; case marking; morphological case; nominal inflection

Article.  4285 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology ; Language Families

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