‘Case Relations’ in Lao, A Radically Isolating Language

N.J. Enfield

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 Lao, A Radically Isolating Language

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Language Families


Show Summary Details


This article examines data from Lao, a radically isolating Southwestern Tai language spoken in Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, and asks how speakers of such a language might cope without case. Lao is like Mandarin, Thai, Vietnamese, and Riau Indonesian in exemplifying the extreme of pragmatically oriented grammar. Where case marking simply distinguishes who from whom, it is mostly dispensable, thanks to the richness of pragmatics. Moreover, for more ‘expressive’ functions of case marking, where features of transitivity are manipulated for expressive or information-structural effect, Lao finds constructional means to treat certain arguments in special ways, thereby explicitly marking non-redundant semantic information in case-like ways. This article also examines patterns of argument-predicate relations, focusing on monovalent predicates, symmetric and other non-oriented bivalent predicates, and asymmetric bivalent predicates. Finally, it considers the expressive functions which case marking might perform, that is where special treatment of one or another argument serves to manipulate semantic distinctions in the construal of event structure and participant involvement.

Keywords: Lao; case; grammar; pragmatics; case marking; argument-predicate relations; arguments; construal; event structure; predicates

Article.  3902 words. 

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

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.