Casein an African Language

Christa König

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Casein an African Language

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Language Families


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Africa is known for being a continent where there are not so many languages with a grammaticalised case system. In East Africa, there is one language which is quite exceptional. Not only does it have a case system distinguishing seven cases, which on African standards is a lot, but it is also unusual in that nearly all elements in the language are case-inflected, including nouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions. Nevertheless, even though case is ubiquitous in Ik, the encoding of core participants, that is intransitive subjects (S), transitive subjects (A), and transitive objects (O), is so defective that it is questionable whether the elements under consideration are really cases and not something else. This article shows that case is a highly productive mechanism of Ik. Nearly all lexical items of the language can be case-inflected, including adverbs, conjunctions, adpositions, and verbs.

Keywords: Ik; East Africa; case; nouns; verbs; adverbs; conjunctions; intransitive subjects; transitive subjects; transitive objects

Article.  3011 words. 

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

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