Case Interactions in Syntax
Jessica Coon, Clint Parker
January 2018

The phenomenon of case has been studied widely at both the descriptive and theoretical levels. Typological work on morphological case systems has provided a picture of the variability of case cross-linguistically. In particular, languages may differ with respect to whether or not arguments are marked with overt morphological case, the inventory of cases with which they may be marked, and the alignment of case marking (e.g. nominative-accusative vs. ergative-absolutive). In the theoretical realm, not only has morphological case been argued to play a role in multiple syntactic phenomena, but current generative work also debates the role of abstract case (i.e. Case) in the grammar: abstract case features have been proposed to underlie morphological case, and to license nominals in the derivation. The phenomenon of case has been argued to play a role in at least three areas of the syntax: (i) agreement, (ii) A-movement, and (iii) A’-movement. Bobaljik (2008) provides convincing evidence that morphological case—rather than grammatical function—determines a nominal argument’s eligibility to participate in verbal agreement. Preminger (2014), building upon Bobaljik’s work, claims that languages vary as to whether movement to subject position is case-sensitive. As for case-sensitive A’-movement, recent literature debates whether this phenomenon should be seen as another instance of ‘case discrimination’ (Deal 2016c) or whether the pattern arises from other properties of ergative languages (e.g. Henderson and Coon 2016). Finally, other recent work (e.g. Brown 2016) has examined agreement and A’ extraction patterns in languages with no visible case morphology (e.g. Mayan, Tsimshianic, and Salishan languages). It is shown that the presence of patterns and typological gaps—both in languages with overt morphological case and in those without it—lends support to the relevance of abstract case in the syntax.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003839
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics
keywords: case, agreement, a-movement, a’-movement, syntactic ergativity, morphology, syntax
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