case/adposition term

Paolo Ramat paoram at UNIPV.IT
Wed Jul 12 11:06:21 UTC 2006

Dear Martin,
I find that Christian is right. Changing  terminology does not help very 
much and 'case' (pto:sis) has such a stable tradition that using it with 
different meanings can but make confusion.
As for 'case relators', I again agree with Christian: 'case' relations have 
syntactic nature and semantic function. They may be expressed via many 
different strategies. Ad limitem also Word Order can function as 'case 
relator'  (think of Chinese), so that the term may be not so self-evident.
Best, as  ever
prof.Paolo Ramat
Università di Pavia
Dipartimento di Linguistica Teorica e Applicata
tel. ##39 0382 984 484
fax ##39 0382 984 487

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Prof. Dr. Christian Lehmann" <christian.lehmann at>
Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 5:33 PM
Subject: Re: case/adposition term

> Dear Martin,
> I cannot do the historical search, but I do have a comment.
> 1) I have an article in print in which I argue against "upgrading"
> morphological concepts. Case is such a concept. It has been used in all
> ways having to do with syntactic and semantic relational entities and
> features, and the result is confusion. I would restrict the term 'case'
> to what it meant 2000 years ago. This is a valid typological concept,
> i.e. it allows us to make a useful distinction between languages that
> have case and languages that don't (cf. Lehmann 2005
> <>).
> If those other 'case' concepts deserve a name (some of them don't), then
> let a neologism be invented.
> 2) 'Relator' has a broad meaning not restricted to 'case and/or
> adposition'. Relators comprise, i.a., interpropositional relators
> (subordinators and conjunctions) and attributors. See Lehmann & Stolz
> 1992
> <>,
> section 2.2.
> 3) I therefore opted for 'case relator' (e.g. in Thoughts on
> grammaticalization). Surprisingly, a Google search for this term only
> finds Lehmann publications as sources. I do not think I invented that
> term, though.
> 4) I would be very reserved concerning a generic functional denominator
> for case relators (i.e. cases and adpositions). On the one hand, there
> are (at least) two different functions: The adposition typically codes a
> specific semantic relation (like 'under' or 'thanks to'), while the most
> grammatical cases (e.g. the German accusative) do nothing of the sort,
> but just reflect a valency feature of their regens. On the other hand,
> well-known cases of grammaticalization show that adpositions can become
> cases ('case markers'), which means that the former of these functions
> can pass over into the latter. Functional approaches usually ask for the
> 'underlying' function of an item. In a grammaticalization perspective,
> that is the function of the item that is input to the process. In that
> view, the function of the adposition as just characterized would be the
> original, 'real' function of case relators.
> Best,
> Christian
> -- 
> Prof. Dr. Christian Lehmann
> Philosophische Fakultät
> Universität
> Postf. 900221
> D-99105 Erfurt
> Tel.: +49/361/737 -4200 (Sekr.)
> -4201 (selbst)
> Fax: -4209
> E-Post: Christian.Lehmann at Uni-Erfurt.De

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