Oblique (a grammatical relation)

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The term oblique is often used to refer to the grammatical relation of arguments or adjuncts that are coded in some special way (by means of an adposition or a semantic case), contrasting with core arguments, which are generally coded without case-marking or with grammatical case-marking.


In the sentence On Monday Maria sent a letter to her mother by e-mail, the three prepositional phrases on Monday, to her mother, and by e-mail would be considered obliques by many linguists. Note that on Monday and by e-mail are adjuncts, while to her mother is an argument; typically the term oblique is neutral with respect to the adjunct-argument distinction and is defined by the coding patterns.



The term oblique must have been inspired by oblique case, though its meanings diverges considerably. It is a technical term in Relational Grammar, and it may well be that it spread to linguistics from there.


  • Thompson, Sandra A. 1997. "Discourse motivations for the core-oblique distinction as a language universal." In Kamio, Akio (ed.) Directions in functional linguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 59-82.