[Lingtyp] Cases of loss of goal markers

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Sat Jan 12 12:29:03 UTC 2019

The omission of spatial goal (and location) markers with place names and 
other nouns used typically in spatial function is very widespread in the 
world's languages.

Until recently, there was no term for this phenomenon, but I now call it 
"differential place marking" (inspired especially by Stolz et al.'s 2017 
paper mentioned by Grev Corbett, and by Jonathan Schlossberg's 2017 ALT 
talk on "local nouns" and the differential marking of place).

In my forthcoming paper "Differential place marking and differential 
object marking" (to appear in LTU/STUF; available on Academia.edu), I 
highlight the similarities with other kinds of differential marking:

It seems that in many (or most) languages that allow unflagged spatial 
goals (and/or locations), these occur especially or exclusively with 
"typical place nouns", most notably place names. The reason is nicely 
expressed by Karatsareas & Georgakopoulos in their 2016 paper (cited by 
Ponrawee Prasertsom):

"The omission of [the goal preposition] "se" therefore seems to be the 
preferred option in motion event utterances in which the Ground-encoding 
expressions display high degrees of informativity, and also possibly 
redundancy" (p. 326)

So when the place meaning is particularly easy to infer on the basis of 
the ground noun's usual use, a goal marker need not be used, in many 

But Ponrawee's question was about the diachrony, and it seems that in 
Greek, we do indeed see the *loss* of "se". But as David Gil pointed 
out, differential place marking may come about through the differential 
introduction of a marker where needed. And in many cases, the 
differential-marking situation may be very old -- for example, Ancient 
Greek not only had "eis Athenan" (to Athens), but also a prepositionless 
construction ("Athenaze") which may have survived in some way into 
Modern Greek. And how sure are we that the zero goal patterns of 
Northwest British English are not old?

Thus, it seems to me that the cross-linguistic distribution (and its 
functional motivation) is clearer than the diachronic origin of this 


On 12.01.19 11:53, Vladimir Panov wrote:
> Dear Ponrawee,
> actually, not only in Asia Minor, but also in colloquial standard 
> Modern Greek goal and location markers are often dropped, e.g.
> ime athina / pao athina
> cop.1sg athens / go-1sg athens
> 'I am in Athens' / 'I am going to Athens'
> Concerning Viktor Friedman's comment on Macedonian, it makes sense to 
> test if it might be a Balkan areal feature.
> Vladimir
> ??, 11 ???. 2019 ?. ? 20:53, Ponrawee Prasertsom 
> <ponrawee.pra at gmail.com <mailto:ponrawee.pra at gmail.com>>:
>     Dear all,
>     I am looking for languages where goal markers (case affixes,
>     prepositions, etc. corresponding to English /to/) developed into
>     zero, i.e. are lost. That is, from something like /I go to school
>     /to /I go school. /Does anyone know of such cases?
>     Currently, I am aware of only one such case: goal preposition loss
>     on Asia Minor Greek (Karatsareas and Georgakopoulos 2016), which
>     reconstructs history from variation among dialects (se > se/? > ?).
>     Ideally, I would like cases with attested historical data, but
>     reconstruction or any other relevant data such as ongoing change
>     etc. is also welcome.
>     Reference:
>     Karatsareas, Petros and Thanasis Georgakopoulos. 2016. From
>     syntagmatic to paradigmatic spatial zeroes: The loss of the
>     preposition se in inner Asia Minor Greek. STUF - Language Typology
>     and Universals, 69(2), 309-340.
>     Yours sincerely,
>     -- 
>     Ponrawee Prasertsom
>     Graduate Student
>     Department of Linguistics
>     Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University
>     Bangkok, Thailand
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Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10	
D-07745 Jena
Leipzig University
Institut fuer Anglistik
IPF 141199
D-04081 Leipzig

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