Case in an Australian Language

Alan Dench

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 an Australian Language

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Language Families


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Nyamal is an Australian language of the Pama-Nyungan family, originally spoken in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. In Nyamal, as in many Australian languages, nominal suffixes serve a wide range of dependency-marking functions, which include but are not restricted to traditional ‘case’. Nyamal has a very complex system of case marking. This complexity is due to its very strong tendency towards multiple case marking combined with variation in the case marking selected by arguments of different predicates, in different clause types, and by different patterns of case syncretism in different classes of nominals. Morphological coding conventions determine the distribution of case suffixes to constituents within a phrase or clause marked for case. Patterns of suffix distribution predicted by the use of case suffixes at different functional levels and by the rules of concord are modified by certain morphological sequence constraints. This article describes and exemplifies that complexity. It sets out the variables affecting the choice of case marking for arguments in clauses and describes the patterns of multiple case marking.

Keywords: Nyamal; case; multiple case marking; distribution; case marking; case syncretism; morphological coding conventions; morphological sequence constraints; clauses

Article.  4645 words. 

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

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