case/adposition term

Urmas.Sutrop at EKI.EE Urmas.Sutrop at EKI.EE
Tue Jul 11 12:48:31 UTC 2006

Dear  Martin,

Analytic and synthetic cases are not a very good solution. In Estonian, for 
example, many adpositions have also (some) "traditional" (local) case forms.

maja ‘house’
maja-s = maja see-s ‘in the house’ Inessive
maja-sse OR majja = maja si-sse ‘into the house’ Illative
maja-st = maja see-st ‘from, of, out of the house’ Elative

maja-l = maja pea-l ‘upon, on, at the house’ Adessive
maja-le = maja pea-le ‘to the house’ Allative
maja-lt = maja pea-lt ‘from, off the house’ Ablative

These examples show that analytic forms are at the same time synthetic.

Urmas Sutrop

> 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
> -- 
> Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
> Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6
> D-04103 Leipzig      
> Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616

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