grammatical coding of proper names

Matthew Dryer dryer at BUFFALO.EDU
Tue Dec 3 18:27:52 UTC 2013

A language that treats proper nouns differently from common nouns is 
Meryam Mir, an Eastern Trans-Fly language spoken on islands between the 
mainlands of Australia and Papua New Guinea but which belong politically 
to Australia.

Meryam Mir is interesting in that it exhibits four different systems of 
alignment within the same language.  The case system for pronouns is 
nominative-accusative, the case system for common nouns is 
ergative-absolutive, and the case system for proper nouns is tripartite, 
with an accusative case that does not occur with common nouns.

In addition, the head marking system on verbs can be described as split 

Piper, N. (1989). A sketch grammar of Meryam Mer. Australian National 

(A version Piper’s thesis has recently been published by Lincom Europa; 
I do not know if it differs from the thesis.)

Matthew Dryer, Professor
Department of Linguistics
616 Baldy Hall
University at Buffalo (SUNY)
Buffalo NY 14260
Phone: 716-645-0122
     FAX: 716-645-3825
dryer at

On 12/3/13 4:56 AM, Lukas Denk wrote:
> Hello everyone,
> We are looking for peculiarities of the grammatical coding of proper
> names compared to common nouns (and pronouns) in the languages of the
> world.  In particular we are interested in proper names in S, A and P
> function and how they differ with regard to word order, case marking and
> agreement from the treatment of common nouns in a particular language.
> Are there such differences also in European languages?
> This is follow up research of a paper that we gave at the last ALT
> conference in Leipzig on the morphosyntactic coding of proper names and
> the Animacy Hierarchy.
> I would thank you for any examples you can give,
> Best wishes,
> Lukas Denk (University of Regensburg)

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