Case Relations in Tlaanec, a Head-Marking Language

Søren Wichmann

in The Oxford Handbook of Case

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Case Relations in Tlaanec, a Head-Marking Language

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Language Families


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Tlapanec is a head-marking language, in which case relations are marked by verbal suffixes. Four types of relations are marked in this way. Three of these bear many resemblances to cross-linguistically well-known cases: the ergative, absolutive, and the dative. The fourth, however, is a novel type of relation and called pegative. This encodes an actor involved in an event which also involves a dative-like undergoer. Tlapanec exhibits a VAO basic word order with the possibility of fronting A or O in a topicalisation construction. Predicates inflect for aspect, polarity, and person, while nouns may inflect for person of possessor. This article presents the Tlapanec system with special attention to the three following features: the markers attach to the predicate, the ergative case is morphologically unmarked, and the inventory includes the pegative relation. It also discusses the morphology of case marking, the morphosyntax of the Tlapanec case markers and their semantics, the mechanisms of case assignment, monopersonal verbs, and similarities between verbal suffixes and canonical case marking.

Keywords: Tlapanec; case marking; case relations; pegative; morphology; morphosyntax; semantics; case assignment; monopersonal verbs; verbal suffixes

Article.  4207 words. 

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

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