case/adposition term

Gideon Goldenberg msgidgol at MSCC.HUJI.AC.IL
Wed Jul 12 23:12:32 UTC 2006

Dear typologists,
We may be reminded of the recognition widely accepted in
the past of mainly three types of grammatical relations,
or bonds, which are the essence of all syntactical ties,
viz. (1) the predicative, (2) the attributive and (3) the
"objective". This theory also became a cornerstone of
typological research, which recognized, by the way, the
Semitic three-case system as the epitome of ideal agreement
between perception of the syntactic relations and the formal
marking of grammatical cases. This view was held by some of
the most distinguished linguists of old, such as K. F. Becker,
H. Steinthal, F. Misteli, F. N. Finck, Ernst Lewy. The recognition
of three (or four) basic syntactical relations was also central
in the doctrine of Russian linguists like Smirnickij (Smirnitsky)
with his many disciples and Uspenskij.
Claude's comment is important, viz that it should be kept in mind
that a postposition is not exactly the same phenomenon as a
declension case. Where postpositions develop historically into
case endings, it is in fact a process of grammaticalization.
As a general term needed in typological studies, "relator", as
suggested by Claude Hagege is better than any combination with
"case" that might be misleading.	Best regards, Gideon.

----- Original Message -----

>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 -----

    Dear all,       The views expressed by Christian, Bill,  Wolfgang and
Paolo are interesting, with respect to this  issue.      I think
neither adposition nor case are good  terms:          1)  adposition only
refers to the (admittedly most widespread) situation in  which the syntacic
relationship is marked by a morpheme which is located before  (pre-) or
after (postposition) (or on both sides of?  (circumposition) ) its
complement. Thus adposition does not  take into account the tonal and
stress strategies also  available.             2) case has become very
frequent in linguistic research since  Fillmore's 1968 article "The case
for case". But there are drawbacks to its use.  Although it originally had
a morphological acception, having, for Latin and  Greek grammarians of the
past, like its Greek equivalent ptôsis, the  meaning "fall", i.e.deviation
from the nominative (then considered to  be the base form), it has come to
refer to the semantic aspect of the  phenomenon: we say that in English the
benefactive case is marked by the  preposition for.     Moreover, the
term case,  precisely because it is inherited from the classical tradition,
implies  that we are referring to inflectional languages, in which there
are noun  declensions in the strict sense of this term. It should be kept
in mind  that a postposition, for example, is not exactly the same
phenomenon as a  declension case, if only because, generally, it does not
affect, or does  not affect in the same way, the form of the noun to which
it is  applied.     I would therefore suggest to use the term  relator,
which refers to the syntactic relationship in itself, and may  be applied
to any language, from those which, like Palawan, have only one  relator to
those which, like Udmurt or Tabassaran, have between 15 and  25.   Best,

----- 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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