Limits to case - a critical survey of the notion

Andrew Spencer*, Ryo Otoguro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

13 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter examines the notion of case, establishing the extent to which such a feature is needed in the grammars of individual languages. Case systems represent an advanced stage in the grammaticalization of lexical concepts, in which lexical meaning is lost and the cases function as exponents or signals of other grammatical categories such as grammatical functions. Although there are distinct allomorphs of case markers, the distribution of these allomorphs is usually determined by phonology. Morphological and syntactic cases are distinct properties and, in principle, can be found independent of each other. In morphology, an attribute of the morphological case is needed to generalize over inflectional classes. In the syntax, there is a need for an attribute of the syntactic case to state certain types of agreements, multiple-case marking, and some forms of government. The inflection/derivation distinction is a metagrammatical distinction that can only be drawn by grammarians by considering the interaction of all the principles of morphology, syntax, semantics, and lexical relatedness in the language.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCompetition and Variation in Natural Languages
PublisherElsevier Ltd
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9780080446516
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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