case/adposition term

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Tue Jul 11 11:31:40 UTC 2006

Dear Martin,
sure, it seems to make sense to search for a term that covers the 
functional commonalities of synthetic cases and what you call 
adpositions. Personally, I frequently refer to this aspect with the help 
of the term 'referential echoes' (as opposed to referential echoes that 
copy properties of referential entities onto the verbal domain). 
Relational echoes thus copy inherent verbal properties such as features 
of actancy, localization etc. onto the referential domain. The problem I 
see is to put pre- and postpostions into a single category 
(adpositions). Even though they seem to share certain functional 
features they are nevertheless of rather heterogenous nature: As far as 
I can see, prepositions stand in a much closer relationship with the 
verbal nucleus than postpositions (in fact, I treat prepositions usually 
as being a part of the verbal domain). Postpositions, on the other hand, 
are strongly referential in nature, often linked to their head in terms 
of a covert or overt possessive relation (or in terms of an appositional 
relation). Thus the 'relational echo' shows up with postpositions either 
through case-marking on the postposition or merely through the syntactic 
Best whishes,

Martin Haspelmath schrieb:

> I have a terminological question:
> Cases and adpositions have many properties in common, so it is useful 
> to have a term for a broader concept that includes both. I know of 
> three proposals for such a broader concept:
> (1) relator
> (2) flag
> (3) case
> I'm interested in places in the literature where one of these three 
> choices has been explicitly adopted, and of course in alternatives 
> that I don't know about.
> I have used (2) ("flag") myself in recent work (a 2005 paper published 
> in "Linguistic Discovery", see 
> but I know that I didn't invent it. I think I have heard it in the 
> context of Relational Grammar.
> (3) is clearly the most widespread -- people routinely refer to 
> adpositional markers as "case markers", but it has the disadvantage of 
> introducing a polysemy of the term "case" (unless one abandons the old 
> case concept and only talks about "analytic cases" and "synthetic 
> cases"). Still, I'm interested in places in the literature where this 
> terminological choice is explicitly adopted.
> Thanks,
> Martin

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze
Institut fuer Allgemeine und Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen
Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
D-80539 Muenchen
Tel.: ++49-(0)89-2180-2486 (Sekr.)
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E-mail: W.Schulze at

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