Case

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In morphosyntax, case is a grammatical category system marked on noun phrases to indicate the syntactic-semantic relationship between the noun phrases and other elements in the clause. Case categories are marked by affixes or occasionally by other morphological means (such as stem changes), mostly on the head noun of the noun phrase.

  • “Case: an inflectional dimension of nouns that serves to code the noun phrase's semantic role.” (Haspelmath 2002:267)

Examples

Frequently encountered cases are the genitive case for the adnominal possessor (e.g. English the girl’s book), the accusative case for the direct object (e.g. Latin video ciceron-em [I.see Cicero-ACC]), and the dative case for the recipient (e.g. Japanese watashi-wa Taro-ni hon-o age-ta [I-TOP Taro-DAT book-ACC give-PAST] ‘I gave Taro a book.’).

Comments

  • “There is among many scholars a strong feeling that the term [case] should be used only where clear case morphemes are discoverable in the inflection of nouns.” (Fillmore 1968:19)

Subtypes

Subcategories

Polysemy

The term case is also used

  • for semantic roles -- see deep case
  • for an abstract and often invisible/inaudible feature licensing the occurrence of noun phrases -- see abstract case
  • as a general term for cases and adpositions --- see flag

Origin

The term case goes back to the earliest Western grammatical works (Dionysius Thrax, perhaps Aristotle). In Latin, the term casus (literally 'falling') is found in Varro (?), evidently as a loan translation from Greek ptóòsis ‘falling’. According to Blake (2001:18), the metaphor "seems to have been of falling away from an assumed standard form". Fillmore (1968:6) translates it as ‘deviation’.

References

  • Blake, Barry J.. 2001. Case. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Fillmore, Charles J. 1968. The case for case. In: Bach, Emmon & Harms, Robert T. (eds.) Universals in linguistic theory. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1-88.
  • Haspelmath, Martin. 2002. Understanding morphology. London: Arnold.

Other languages